After going through the difficult process of connecting a loved one to the help they need with a psychiatric evaluation, it’s understandable to want to stay informed and involved. When experiencing the turbulence of a mental health episode and the ripple of impact through the family system, we crave understanding around what happened, as well as what happens next. While support from loved ones is an integral part of the treatment journey, the information shared by the professionals involved is limited by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, more commonly referred to as HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) | CDC, n.d.).
The purpose of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is to establish universal standards to protect an individual’s medical records, as well as other identifiable health information (Office for Civil Rights (OCR), 2022b). Behavioral health providers have an obligation to adhere to the rules of HIPPA, which would restrict sharing of treatment updates as well as conclusions of a completed psychiatric evaluation. To have access to the protected health information of your loved one, he or she would have to voluntarily sign a release of information, which authorizes their treatment team to communicate with you. Releases of information can be restricted for specific purposes. For example, a release could be only for information pertaining to the financial aspect of services or could also be a full release that provides access to all treatment information.
It’s important to note that psychiatric evaluations can be long and lengthy documents with various diagnostic tools or criteria used throughout. Therefore, it can be beneficial to review the results of a psychiatric evaluation with a licensed mental health professional to truly understand the clinical impressions and treatment recommendations for your loved one. Understanding the recommendations, as well as the reasoning for them based on diagnostic criteria, when permitted in accordance with the rules of HIPAA can further strengthen your ability to be both an advocate for and active participant in your loved one’s treatment.