Workplace injuries, unfortunately, are a common occurrence. Seeking medical attention becomes paramount when injured, and with it comes the intertwined complexities of privacy concerns. How much of your medical information can your employer access? Is there a boundary they cannot cross?
Simply put, the majority of your health information is protected by federal privacy laws, but there are situations where your employer can contact your doctor without prior authorization. Here is what you need to know about your right to privacy during a workers’ compensation claim.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) delineates specific privacy rules applicable to certain entities, including medical care providers and insurers, who hold confidential medical records. While these entities can disclose medical records without the patient’s authorization, it’s restricted to specific parties and under specific circumstances.
One such circumstance is workers’ compensation. HIPAA mandates that entities disclose only the minimum medical information essential for workers’ compensation objectives, which also encompasses the minimal data needed for payment purposes. This means your employer should only have access to limited, specific information from your medical records. If they were to access your full medical records, it would constitute a HIPAA violation.
There are certain scenarios where entities involved in workers’ compensation systems, such as a workers’ compensation insurer, state administrator, or even your employer, can contact your doctor without your express permission:
In these situations, it’s possible for your employer or their insurer to directly reach out to your doctor without your consent. However, you also have the option to proactively authorize your employer to contact your doctor.
If you are injured or suffer an illness that impacts your ability to work, your doctor may set out rules or guidelines to prevent further injury. He or she may recommend that you take reduced hours, light-duty jobs, or regular breaks to avoid aggravating your condition. In other cases, your doctor may recommend that you take time off work.
In these situations, you may wonder: does my employer need to follow the medical recommendations set out by my doctor? The unequivocal answer is yes. Ignoring these recommendations is not only detrimental to your recovery, but it exposes the employer to potential legal challenges. If a worsened injury or health setback arises from non-compliance with these guidelines, it could lead to increased liabilities for the employer.
After a workplace injury, navigating the complexities of medical records and privacy laws is only the beginning. Workers’ compensation claims are intricate and can involve several steps; any misstep has the potential to jeopardize your right to benefits.
To protect your rights and strengthen your claim, it is imperative to reach out to a Minneapolis workers’ compensation lawyer. An attorney can help you navigate the different steps involved in your claim and advocate for your right to benefits. They can also help during any conflicts regarding your medical care and your employer, defending your rights every step of the way. Contact our firm today for help.