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Resource

Privacy Practices

Your Information. Your Rights. Our Responsibilities.

Resource

Privacy Practices

This Notice describes how medical information about you may be used and disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please review it carefully.

The words “Mass General Brigham” in this Notice describes the privacy practices of Mass General Brigham and designated entities. A list of the Mass General Brigham organizations that this Notice applies to can be found on our website
at www.partners.org/PatientPrivacyNotice.

This Notice also applies to private doctors who are on the medical staff of these organizations if they see you at a Mass General Brigham site (they will give you their own Notice if they see you in their private office).

Your Rights

When it comes to your health information, you have certain rights. This section explains your rights and some of our responsibilities to help you.

  • You can ask to see or get an electronic or paper copy of your medical
    record and other health information we have about you. You may
    also ask for your test results directly from the labs where your tests are
    done. Ask us how to do this.
  • We will provide a copy or a summary of your health information,
    usually within 30 days of your request. We may charge a reasonable,
    cost-based fee.
  • If your request is denied, we will explain the reasons, and tell you
    what your rights are.
  • You can ask us to contact you in a specific way (for example, home or office phone) or to send mail to a different address. We will say “yes” to all reasonable requests.
  • You can ask us not to use or share (outside of Mass General Brigham) certain health
    information for treatment, payment, or our operations.
    • We are not required to agree to your request,
      and we have the option to say “no.”
  • If you pay for a service or health care item out-of-pocket in full, you have the right to ask us not to share that information for the purpose of payment or our operations with your health insurer.
  • If you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself, and have given someone medical power of attorney or if someone is your legal guardian, that person can exercise your rights and make choices about your health information.
  • We will make sure the person has this authority and can act for you before we allow them to make decisions for you.
  • You can ask for a list (accounting) of the times we have shared your health information during the six years prior to the date you request an accounting. We will respond to your request within 60 days.
  • We will include all the disclosures except for those about treatment, payment, and health care operations, and certain other disclosures (such as any you asked us to make). We will provide one accounting per year for free but will charge a reasonable, cost-based fee if you ask for another one within 12 months.
  • You can ask for a paper copy of this Notice at any time, even if you have agreed to receive the Notice electronically. We will provide you with a paper copy promptly.
  • You can ask us to correct health or billing information about you that you think is incorrect or incomplete. Ask us how to do this.
  • We may say “no” to your request, for example, if your provider feels that the information currently in your record is complete and accurate. If we deny your request, we’ll tell you why in writing within 60 days.
  • If we agree to your request, we will ask you to give us the names of the people you want to receive the corrected information.
  • You can complain if you feel we have violated your privacy rights by contacting the Partners HealthCare Privacy Office through the Partners Compliance HelpLine at 1-800-856-1983 or www.partners.org/complianceline.
  • You can file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights by sending a letter to J.F. Kennedy Federal Building – Room 1875, Boston, MA 02203, by calling 800-368-1019, 800-537-7697 (TDD), or visiting www.hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint/.
  • We will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint.

Your Choices

For certain health information, you can tell us your choices about what we share. If you have a clear preference for how we share your information in the situations described below, talk to us. Tell us what you want us to do, and we will follow your instructions. We will treat you the same no matter what choices you make.

In these cases, you have the right and choice to tell us to:

  • Share information with your family, close friends, or others involved in your care.
  • Share information in a disaster relief situation.
  • Include your information in a hospital directory (information desk). If you are admitted to the hospital, your name, room location, general condition, and religion may be listed in that hospital’s directory. This will be shared with members of your family, friends, members of the clergy, and to others who ask
    for you by name. You may ask to have your name taken off the directory list.
  • We may use your information for fundraising to support the Partners system and its missions of excellence, but you can tell us not to contact you again. Information we may use is limited to demographic or other information allowed by law (such as name, address, telephone number or e-mail information, age, date of birth, gender, health insurance status, dates of service, department of service information, treating physician information, or outcome information).

If you are not able to tell us your preference – for example, if you are unconscious, we may go ahead and share your information if we believe it is in your best interest. We may also share your information when needed to lessen a serious and imminent threat to health or safety.

In these cases, we never share your information unless you give us written permission:

  • Marketing purposes.
  • Sale of your information.

Our Uses and Disclosures

How do we typically use or share your health information?
Mass General Brigham has developed a shared electronic medical record for patient care that is used by:

  • Mass General Brigham, including its member organizations (e.g., hospitals, outpatient) and health care providers, and
  • Other non-Mass General Brigham providers, such as Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI), and certain community
    physicians and physician groups.

Mass General Brigham participates in health information exchanges (HIEs), including the Massachusetts Health Information
Highway (Mass HIway). Mass General Brigham uses HIEs as a method to share, request, and receive electronic health information
with other health care organizations. For questions, or if you want to opt-out of sharing your information using the Mass HIway, contact the Partners Privacy Office through the Partners Compliance HelpLine at 1-800-856-1983 or www.partners.org/complianceline.

We typically use or share your health information in the following ways:

  • We can use your health information and share it with other professionals who are treating you both inside and outside of Mass General Brigham.

Example: Your Specialist may discuss your condition and treatment with your Primary Care Physician.

  • We can use and share your health information to run our hospitals or physician practices, improve your care, and contact you when necessary.

Example: We use health information about you for monitoring quality of care and teaching health care professionals.

  • We can use and share your health information to bill and get payment from health plans or other entities.

Example: We give information about you to your health insurance plan so it will pay for your services.

Mass General Brigham may use your health information to
contact you:

  • At the address and telephone numbers you give to us including leaving messages at the telephone numbers
  • With information about patient care issues, treatment choices, and follow-up care instructions
  • With information that may be of interest to you which describes a health-related product or service provided by Mass General Brigham
  • At the e-mail address or other contact information you provide to assist us in activities described in this Notice

Example: We may contact you about scheduled or cancelled appointments, registration/insurance updates, billing or payment matters, pre-procedure assessment, satisfaction surveys, or test results.

How else can we use or share your health information? We are allowed or required to share your information without your authorization in other ways – usually in ways that contribute to the public good, such as public health and research. We have to meet many conditions in the law before we can share your information for these purposes. The following are examples of how we may share information without your authorization:

We can share health information about you for certain situations such as:

  • Preventing disease
  • Helping with product recalls
  • Reporting adverse reactions to medications
  • Reporting suspected abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
  • Preventing or reducing a serious threat to anyone’s health or safety
  •  
  • We can share health information about you for research that is approved by a Mass General Brigham Research Committee or its designee when written permission is not required by federal or state law. This also may include preparing for research or telling you about research studies in which you might be interested.
  • We will share information about you if state or federal laws require it, including with the Department of Health and Human Services if it wants to see that we’re complying with federal privacy law.
  • We can share health information about you with organ procurement organizations.

We can use or share health information about you:

  • For workers’ compensation claims
  • For law enforcement purposes under specific conditions such as reporting when someone is the victim of a crime
  • With health oversight agencies for activities authorized by law
  • For special government functions such as military, national security, and presidential protective services
  • We can share health information about you in response to a court or administrative order, or in response to a subpoena.

For more information, see:
www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/index.html

When do we need your written permission before sharing your health information? We will not share your health information for other purposes not described in this Notice unless you give us your written permission. We are also restricted by state and other federal laws from sharing without your written permission certain types of health information that is considered highly sensitive.

Generally, we will ask for your consent before we share certain sensitive information such as:

  • Records of treatment received at federally funded substance use disorder programs
  • Certain psychotherapy documentation
  • HIV testing or test results
  • Genetic information
  • Confidential communications with a Licensed Social Worker
  • Records from a Domestic Violence Victims Counselor or Sexual Assault Counselor

Laws that protect this information do have many exceptions. For instance, we may share your health information without your consent if necessary to report suspected child or elder abuse or neglect, and for other purposes as allowed by law.

You may cancel an authorization or consent at any time in writing or, in certain limited situations, orally, except if we have already relied upon it. For example, if we already shared your health information with whom you previously gave us written permission, we cannot get it back.

Our Responsibilities

  • We are required by law to maintain the privacy and security of your protected health information.
  • We will let you know promptly if a breach occurs that may have compromised the privacy or security of your information.
  • We must follow the duties and privacy practices described in this Notice and offer you a copy of it.
  • We will not use or share your information other than as described here unless you tell us we can in writing. If you tell us we can, you may change your mind at any time. Let us know in writing if you change your mind.
  • Mass General Brigham maintains hospital medical records for at least 20 years after your discharge or after your final treatment; other records are maintained in accordance with state and federal regulations. A copy of the Mass General Brigham Retention Guideline for Clinical Records is available upon request.

For more information see:
www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/notice-privacy-practices/index.html.

Changes to the Terms of This Notice
We can change the terms of this Notice, and the changes will apply to all information we have about you. The new Notice will be available upon request in registration areas, on our website at www.partners.org/PatientPrivacyNotice, or you can request a copy by contacting the Mass General Brigham Privacy Office through the Mass General Brigham Compliance HelpLine at 1-800-856-1983 or www.partners.org/complianceline.

EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS NOTICE
This Notice is effective as of January 1, 2019.

Notice Informing Individuals About Nondiscrimination and Accessibility Requirements and Nondiscrimination Statement: Discrimination is Against the Law

Mass General Brigham complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability. Mass General Brigham does not exclude people or treat them differently because of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability.

Mass General Brigham members:

  • Provide free aids and services to people with disabilities to communicate effectively with us, such as:
    • Qualified sign language interpreters
    • Written information in other formats (large print, audio, accessible electronic formats, other formats)
  • Provide free language services to people whose primary language is not English, such as:
    • Qualified interpreters
    • Information written in other languages

If you need these services, contact the Civil Rights Coordinator for the site involved (see listing at www.partners.org/CivilRightsCoordinators).

If you believe that a Mass General Brigham entity has failed to provide these services or discriminated in another way on the basis of race, color, national origin, citizenship, alienage, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or disability, you can file a grievance in person or by mail or fax, using the information at www.partners.org/Notices/Nondiscrimination-Statement.aspx. If you need help filing a grievance, the Site Civil Rights Coordinator is available to help you, or you may contact the Partners Compliance HelpLine at 1-800-856-1983 or www.partners.org/complianceline.

You can also file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), electronically through the Office for Civil Rights Complaint Portal, available at https://ocrportal.hhs.gov/ocr/smartscreen/main.jsf or by mail or phone at:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW Room 509F, HHH Building
Washington, D.C. 20201
1-800-368-1019, 800-537-7697 (TDD)

Or by contacting the OCR New England Regional Office at:

Office for Civil Rights
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Government Center
J.F. Kennedy Federal Building – Room 1875
Boston, MA 02203
1-800-368-1019, 800-537-7697 (TDD)

Complaint forms are available at:
www.hhs.gov/hipaa/filing-a-complaint/index.html.

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