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Bill Mandell was Quoted in the May 2018 ED Legal Letter Article

Monday, May 21, 2018

Pierce & William MandellBill Mandell was quoted in the May 2018 ED Legal Letter article on case law expanding ED’s legal exposure if discharged psychiatric patient commits violence.

Guidance to Massachusetts Health Care Providers Regarding the Release of Protected Health Information

Friday, May 04, 2018

By Curt Dooling, Matt Lauring and Bill Mandell

Hospitals and health care facilities, medical and other group practices, and individual clinicians regularly receive requests for patient records and information. It is often confusing for providers to determine when and under what circumstances they are permitted to disclose such records. Discovering parties can use the legal process to compel a response but cannot necessarily override applicable state privacy, confidentiality and privilege laws, as well as privacy rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), with a subpoena alone. HIPAA establishes minimum standards for the protection of protected health information (“PHI”) that do not preempt more protective state privacy laws and privileges. The following provides a brief overview on the differences between a court order, a subpoena, and an authorization for Massachusetts providers.

Subpoenas

Mass. R. Civ. P. 45 allows parties in civil lawsuits to subpoena records from non-parties. These subpoenas are often called keeper of records, or KOR, subpoenas. They are also sometimes referred to as a subpoena duces tecum.

Parties receiving a subpoena must respond to the subpoena within a certain referenced time frame. However, as a general rule, medical records should not be automatically produced in response to a subpoena, without first confirming if there is sufficient authority to release the PHI under both Massachusetts law and HIPAA. Such authority could be (i) under statutory authority on the subpoena alone if certain conditions are met, or (ii) with an executed HIPAA compliant patient authorization, or (ii) upon the issuance of a proper court order.

Subpoenas are not court orders. Subpoenas are issued by attorneys to obtain documents. Attorneys do not need a court’s permission to issue a subpoena. Medical providers can mistake subpoenas for court orders given that subpoenas are often served by a sheriff or constable, are notarized and look like an official court document. Thus, while a timely response must be sent back by the provider to the discovering party, that response may have to be in the form of an objection letter seeking the additional needed authority to disclose the PHI.

Massachusetts licensed hospitals and clinics (but not unlicensed practices) may produce medical records in response to a subpoena alone pursuant to G. L. c 111, § 70, but only if the patient is a named party in the case.

Similarly, under HIPAA’s privacy rule, 45 CFR 164.512(e)(1)(ii), a covered entity that is not a party to the litigation may disclose protected health information in response to a subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process if the covered entity receives certain satisfactory assurances from the party seeking the information. Specifically, the covered entity must receive a written statement and accompanying documentation that the requesting party has made reasonable efforts either (1) to ensure that the individual who is the subject of the information has been given sufficient notice of the request, or (2) to secure a qualified protective order.

Thus, when viewing G. L. 111, § 70 in combination with 45 CFR 164.512(e)(1)(ii), a hospital or clinic may release confidential medical records in response to a subpoena alone if the patient is named in the caption and the provider receives assurance that the patient has been given notice that the records have been requested and has not objected. However, G. L. 111, § 70 only applies to hospitals or clinics licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Therefore, medical practices and other groups may not release PHI in response to a subpoena without first securing a HIPAA compliant authorization from the patient, or a proper judicial order.

Additionally Protected Information

HIPAA provides a minimum level of protection for the disclosure and protection of an individual’s PHI. However, HIPAA expressly permits states to enact laws and regulations that provide more safeguards for the protection of patient information and records

Massachusetts has several statutes that provide additional protections for certain health information. For example:

  • General Laws c. 112, § 135B provides for the confidentiality of patient/social worker communications. Pursuant to G. L. c. 112, § 135B, social worker communications and records are privileged and may only be disclosed under certain circumstances.
  • General Laws c. 233, § 20B provides for the confidentiality of patient/psychotherapist communications. Pursuant to G. L. c. 233, § 20B, psychotherapist communications and records are privileged and may only be disclosed under certain circumstances.
  • General Laws c. 111, § 70F provides for the confidentiality of a patient’s HIV testing records. Pursuant to G. L. c. 111, § 70F, HIV testing records may only be disclosed with a patient’s express consent.
  • General Laws c. 233, § 20J provides for the confidentiality of sexual assault counselor communications. Pursuant to G. L. c. 233, § 20J, sexual assault counselor communications are privileged and may only be disclosed under certain circumstances.

These are only some examples of Massachusetts statutes that provide additional protection to certain medical records. There are other additionally protected categories of information under both federal and state law for substance treatment records, alcohol blood test results and minor records, to name others.

Authorizations

If a patient signs a HIPAA-compliant written authorization, a medical provider may release protected health information, as well as additionally protected areas that are explicitly referenced and designated by the patient for release. A HIPAA-compliant authorization form must include the following elements:

  • A description of the information to be disclosed;
  • The name of the individual or the name of the person authorized to make the requested disclosure;
  • The name or other identification of the recipient of the information;
  • A description of each purpose of the disclosure;
  • An expiration date or an expiration event that relates to the individual;
  • A signature of the individual or their personal representative (someone authorized to make health care decisions on behalf of the individual) and the date.

A disclosure for the release of additionally protected information should specifically state which additionally protected records are to be released.

Court Orders

A court order is a mandate issued by a court, a judge, magistrate or a clerk of the court requiring or forbidding someone to do something pursuant to the order. If privileged, additionally protected information is contained in the medical record, in lieu of an authorization, the court order is to be reviewed carefully and only that information which it orders produced is to be produced. It is not necessary to explain that other documents are not being produced in response to a court order if you are following the terms of the order. The judicial order must specify the type of record that is ordered to be released.

Medical providers should adopt health information policies and protocols to follow when a subpoena is served seeking production of a patient’s medical records. Navigating the requirements for the protection of PHI and the authorized release of PHI is difficult and complex. Pierce & Mandell’s health law attorneys have extensive experiencing advising medical providers on HIPAA compliance issues and medical record issues.

Bill Mandell was Quoted in the April 2017 Emergency Department Legal Letter Article

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Pierce & Mandell, Curtis DoolingBill Mandell was quoted in the April 2017 Emergency Department Legal Letter article on visitors and guns in hospital emergency departments and suggested a useful policies for hospitals to consider.


Bill Mandell Appointed Co-Chair of Boston Bar Association’s Health Law Section

Friday, October 28, 2016

Pierce & Mandell, P.C. shareholder Bill Mandell has been appointed by BBA president Carol Starkey as the 2016-2017 Co-Chair of the Boston Bar Association’s Health Law Section. Bill has been a member of the Health Law Section’s Steering Committee for several years and previously served as the BBA’s Solo/Small Firm Section Co-Chair. Bill brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the work of the Section, which is dedicated to promoting excellence and diversity in the field of health law.

Pierce & Mandell Attorneys Recognized as Super Lawyers and Rising Stars 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Pierce & Mandell, P.C. is proud to announce that once again partners Bob Pierce, Bill Mandell, Michael Fee, Tom Kenney, Bob Kirby, and Dennis Lindgren have been selected as Massachusetts Super Lawyers for 2016. Associate Curtis Dooling was designated as a Massachusetts Rising Star for 2016.


Bob Pierce was recognized as a Super Lawyer in the practice area of Civil Litigation/Defense; Bill Mandell in Health Care; Michael Fee, Tom Kenney, and Bob Kirby in Business Litigation; and Dennis Lindgren in Personal Injury/Plaintiff. Curtis Dooling was recognized as a Rising Star in Land Use/Zoning.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. Rising Stars are those attorneys under the age of 40 who have been nominated by peers for excellence in their chosen practice area. Candidates are then evaluated utilizing twelve indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. No more than 2.5 percent of eligible lawyers in Massachusetts are named to the Rising Star list each year.

The Super Lawyers supplement will be published in the November, 2016 issue of New England Magazine and is widely distributed in regional publications and across the country.

Bill Mandell Revisits the Need for Clarity under Massachusetts Law for Permitted Health Provider Disclosure to Protect Public Safety

Friday, June 17, 2016

by Bill Mandell

In the wake of yet another senseless mass killing tragedy I am posting an article I wrote in 2013 for the Boston Bar Association Health Law Reporter on the need for a new law in Massachusetts allowing health care providers to report dangerous persons or situations. Click here to read the article.

Pierce & Mandell Sponsor St. Camillus Health Center Golf Tournament

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pierce & Mandell was  a proud sponsor of the third annual St. Camillus Health Center golf tournament held at Blissful Meadows Country Club in Uxbridge on May 24.  The tournament raised thousands of dollars for St. Camillus, a non-profit facility located in Whitinsville that provides rehabilitation, skilled nursing and short and long term care to the poor, sick and elderly.  Pierce & Mandell lawyers Robert Kirby, Bill Mandell, Michael Fee and Scott Zanolli braved challenging weather conditions in support of this very worthy charitable endeavor.

León Rodriguez: The Guardian of the Melting Pot

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pierce & Mandell Founding Partner William Mandell talks with Boston College Law School Magazine about then fellow student and now U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Director León Rodriguez.

Pierce and Mandell shareholder, Bill Mandell, was not surprised when fellow Boston College Law School student León Rodriguez was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the nation’s top immigration agency.

Mandell and Rodriquez met during their involvement in the Holocaust/Human Rights Project at BC Law during the 1980s, a student run project that confirmed Rodriquez decision to attend a law school founded in the Jesuit tradition, according to Boston College Law School Magazine writer Peter Perl, who profiles Rodriquez and his assent to the nation’s top immigration post in the summer issue of the BC Law Magazine.

“He is a mensch, a true, true mensch,” Mandell ’86 tells the magazine, adding that Rodriguez was extremely effective in lobbying faculty and students to support the Project. Mandell says he and the late Owen M. Kupferschmid ’85 (for whom the project is now named) had tried hard to attract a diverse group of students to the Project “and were excited when a guy named Rodriguez shows up. But he turns out to be Jewish! A Turkish Jew…from a Cuban family! We laughed and said, ‘This guy’s perfect. He breaks all the stereotypes.”

Thirty years later, the Owen M. Kupferschmid Holocaust/Human Rights Project of Boston College Law School endures, drawing international attention for its study of accountability for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Photo Credit: Stephen Voss Photography

Bill Mandell is Adjunct Professor of Law At Suffolk University

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bill Mandell is serving as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School during the Fall 2014 semester teaching a course entitled Corporate Issues in Health Care.

Bill Mandell Teaches “Corporate Issues in Health Care” at Suffolk University Law School - Boston

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bill Mandell is teaching a course entitled Corporate Issues in Health Care for the Fall 2014 semester at Suffolk University Law School as an adjunct faculty member of the Law School.

Bill will be a co-presenter of a policy session entitled “Managing the Paradigm Shift: The Policy Conundrum” at The 19th Annual Scientific Session of the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology, in Boston, on September 20, 2014.  The focus of this program is to analyze the trend of physicians partnering with hospitals and what important regulatory and compliance challenges are on the horizon as physicians and hospitals move from fee for service to quality and population health management based care and reimbursement.

In October, 2014, Bill will also be a co-presenter of a program on Preparing for Dental Practice Ownership being held at the Massachusetts Dental Society.


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