NOTICE OF 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 THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY.
Westchester Medical Center (WMC) is required by law to protect the privacy of health information that may reveal your identity, and to provide you with a copy of this notice that describes the health information privacy practices of our hospital, its medical staff, and affiliated health care providers that jointly provide health care services with our hospital. A copy of our current notice will be posted in public areas throughout the hospital. You will also be able to obtain additional copies by accessing our website at www.worldclassmedicine.com, or by asking for one at the time of your next visit.
If you have any questions about this notice or would like further information, please contact the Privacy Officer at (914) 493-2600.
WHO WILL FOLLOW THIS NOTICE?
Westchester Medical Center provides health care to patients jointly with physicians and other health care professionals. The privacy practices described in this notice will be followed by:
• Any health care professional who treats you at any of our locations; for example, the main Westchester Medical Center Hospital, Children's Hospital, Medical Arts Building, Cedarwood Hall;
• All employees, medical staff, trainees, students or volunteers at any of our locations;
• All affiliated medical staff and their employees that are part of an Organized Health Care Arrangement with the Westchester County Health Care Corporation. An Organized Healthcare Arrangement is in part a clinically integrated setting in which individuals typically receive health care from more than one health care provider.
• Any business associates of our hospital, (which are described further below).
IMPORTANT SUMMARY INFORMATION
Requirement For Written Authorization. WMC will generally obtain your written authorization before using your health information or sharing it with others outside the hospital. You may also initiate the transfer of your records to another person by completing a written authorization form. If you provide us with written authorization, you may revoke that written authorization at any time, except to the extent that we have already complied with your request. To revoke a written authorization, please write to the Director of Health Information Management, Macy Pavilion, Room MI 8, Valhalla, New York 10595.
Exceptions To Written Authorization Requirement. There are some situations when we do not need your written authorization before using your health information or sharing it with others. They are:
• Exception For Treatment, Payment, And Business Operations. We may use and disclose your health information to treat your condition, collect payment for that treatment, or run our business operations. In some cases, we also may disclose your health information to another health care provider or payor for its payment activities and certain of its business operations. For more information, see Treatment, Payment and Business Operations.
• Exception For Facility Directory And Disclosure To Family And Friends Involved In Your Care. We may include information about you in our Facility Directory or share your health information with family and friends involved in your care. Although we are not required to obtain your written authorization, we will ask you whether you have any objection to the use or
disclosure of your health information in this way. For more information, see Facility Directory/ Families and Friends.
• Exception For Public Need. We may use or disclose your health information in certain situations to comply with the law or to meet important public needs. For example, we may share your information with public health officials at New York State or other health departments who are authorized to investigate and control the spread of diseases. For more examples, see Public Need .
• Exception If Information Is Completely Or Partially De-Identified. We may use or disclose your health information if we have removed any information that might identify you so that the health information is "completely de-identified." We may also use and disclose "partially de-identified" information if the person who will receive the information agrees in writing to protect the privacy of the information. For more information, please see Completely De-Identified or Partially De-Identified Information.
How To Access Your Health Information. You generally have the right to inspect and copy your health information. For more information, please see Right to Inspect and Copy Records.
How To Correct Your Health Information. You have the right to request that we amend your health information if you believe it is inaccurate or incomplete. For more information, please see Right to Amend Records.
How To Identify Others Who Have Received Your Health Information. You have the right to receive an "accounting of disclosures," which identifies certain persons or organizations to which we have disclosed your health information in accordance with the protections described in this Notice of Privacy Practices. Many routine disclosures we make will not be included in this accounting, but the accounting will identify many non-routine disclosures of your information. For more information, please see Right to An Accounting of Disclosure.
How To Request Additional Privacy Protections. You have the right to request further restrictions on the way we use your health information or share it with others. We are not required to agree to the restriction you request, but. if we do, we will be bound by our agreement. For more information, please see Right to Request Additional Privacy Proections.
How To Request More Confidential Communications. You have the right to request that we contact you in a way that is more confidential for you, such as at home instead of at work. We will try to accommodate all reasonable requests. For more information, please see Right to Request Confidential Communications.
How Someone May Act On Your Behalf. You have the right to name a personal representative who may act on your behalf to control the privacy of your health information. Parents will generally have the right to control the privacy of health information about minors unless the minors are permitted by law to act on their own behalf. If a guardian has been appointed, that guardian may act on your behalf, consistent with the powers granted by the court.
How To Learn About Special Protections For HIV, Alcohol And Substance Abuse, Mental Health And Genetic Information. Special privacy protections apply to HIV-related information, alcohol and substance abuse treatment information, mental health information, and genetic information. Some parts of this general Notice of Privacy Practices may not apply to these types of information. If your treatment involves this information, you will be provided with separate notices explaining how the information will be protected. To request copies of these other notices now, please contact the hospital's Privacy Officer at (914) 493-2600.
How To Obtain A Copy Of This Notice. You have the right to a paper copy of this notice. You may request a paper copy at any time, even if you have previously agreed to receive this notice electronically. To do so, please call the hospital's Privacy Officer at (914) 493-2600. You may also obtain a copy of this notice from our website at www.wcmc.com or by requesting a copy at your next visit.
How To Obtain A Copy Of Revised Notice. We may change our privacy practices from time to time. If we do, we will revise this notice so you will have an accurate summary of our practices. The revised notice will apply to all of your health information. We will post any revised notice throughout our hospital. You will also be able to obtain your own copy of the revised notice by accessing our website at www.wcmc.com, or asking for one at the time of your next visit. The effective date of the notice will always be noted in the top right comer of the first page. We are required to abide by the terms of the notice that is currently in effect.
How To File A Complaint. If you believe your privacy rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with us or with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. To file a complaint with us, please contact the Privacy Officer, Westchester Medical Center, Executive Offices, Taylor Care Center, Valhalla, New York 10595 or call the Privacy Official at
(914) 493-2600. No one will retaliate or take action against you for filing a complaint.
WHAT HEALTH INFORMATION IS PROTECTED
WMC is committed to protecting the privacy of information we gather about you while providing health-related services. Some examples of protected health information are:
• information indicating that you are a patient at WMC or receiving treatment or other health-related services from our hospital;
• information about your health condition (such as a disease you may have);
• information about health care products or services you have received or may receive in the future (such as an operation); or
• information about your health care benefits under an insurance plan (such as whether a prescription is covered); when combined with:
• demographic information (such as your name, address, or insurance status);
• unique numbers that may identify you (such as your social security number, your phone number, or your driver's license number); and • other types of information that may identify who you are.
HOW WE MAY USE AND DISCLOSE YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION WITHOUT YOUR WRITTEN AUTHORIZATION
For your information, we have included below a more detailed explanation of how WMC may use and disclose your health information without your written authorization.
1. Treatment, Payment And Business Operations
We may use your health information or share it with others in order to treat your condition, obtain payment for that treatment, and run our business operations. In some cases, we may also disclose your health information for payment activities and certain business operations of another health care provider or payor. Below are further examples of how your information may be used and disclosed for these purposes.
Treatment. We may share your health information with doctors or nurses at the hospital who are involved in taking care of you, and they may in turn use that information to diagnose or treat you. A doctor at our hospital may share your health information with another doctor inside our hospital, or with a doctor at another hospital, to determine how to diagnose or treat you. Your doctor may also share your health information with another doctor to whom you have been referred for further health care.
Payment. We may use your health information or share it with others so that we may obtain payment for your health care services. For example, we may share information about you with your health insurance company in order to obtain reimbursement after we have treated you, or to determine whether it will cover your treatment. We might also need to inform your health insurance company about your health condition in order to obtain pre-approval for your treatment, such as admitting you to the hospital for a particular type of surgery. Finally, we may share your information with other health care providers and payors for their payment activities.
Business Operations. We may use your health information or share it with others in order to conduct our business operations. For example, we may use your health information to evaluate the performance of our staff in caring for you, or to educate our staff on how to improve the care they provide for you. Finally, we may share your health information with other health care providers and payors for certain of their business operations if the information is related to a relationship the provider or payor currently has or previously had with you, and if the provider or payor is required by federal law to protect the privacy of your health information.
Appointment Reminders, Treatment Alternatives, Benefits And Services. In the course of providing treatment to you, we may use your health information to contact you with a reminder that you have an appointment for treatment or services at our facility. We may also use your health information in order to recommend possible treatment alternatives or health-related benefits and services that may be of interest to you.
Fundraising. To support our business operations, we may use demographic information about you, including information about your age and gender, where you live or work, and the dates that you received treatment, in order to contact you to raise money to help us operate. We may also share this information with a charitable foundation that will contact you to raise money on our behalf.
Business Associates. We may disclose your health information to contractors, agents and other business associates who need the information in order to assist us with obtaining payment or carrying out our business operations. For example, we may share your health information with a billing company that helps us to obtain payment from your insurance company. Another example is that we may share your health information with an accounting firm or law firm that provides professional advice to us about how to improve our health care services and comply with the law. If we do disclose your health information to a business associate, we will have a written contract to ensure that our business associate also protects the privacy of your health information.
2. Facility Directory/Family And Friends
We may use your health information in, and disclose it from, our Facility Directory, or share it with family and friends involved in your care. We will always give you an opportunity to object unless there is insufficient time because of a medical emergency (in which case we will discuss your preferences with you as soon as the emergency is over). We will follow your wishes unless we are required by law to do otherwise.
Facility Directory. If you do not object, we will include your name, your room number and bed, your general condition (e.g., fair, stable, critical, etc.) in our Facility Directory while you are a patient in the hospital. This directory information may be released to people who ask for you by name. Your religious affiliation may be given to a member of the clergy, such as a priest or rabbi, even if he or she doesn't ask for you by name.
Family and Friends Involved In Your Care. If you do not object, we may share your health information with a family member, relative, or close personal friend who is involved in your care or payment for that care. We may also notify a family member, personal representative or another person responsible for your care about your location and general condition here at the hospital, or about the unfortunate event of your death. In some cases, we may need to share your information with a disaster relief organization that will help us notify these persons.
3. Public Need
We may use your health information, and share it with others, to comply with the law or to meet important public needs that are described below.
As Required By Law. We may use or disclose your health information if we are required by law to do so. We also will notify you of these uses and disclosures if notice is required by law.
Public Health Activities. We may disclose your health information to authorized public health officials (or a foreign government agency collaborating with such officials) so they may carry out their public health activities. For example, we may share your health information with government officials that are responsible for controlling disease, injury or disability. We may also disclose your health information to a person who may have been exposed to a communicable disease or be at risk for contracting or spreading the disease if a law permits us to do so. And finally, we may release some health information about you to your employer if your employer hires us to provide you with a physical exam and we discover that you have a work-related injury or disease that your employer must know about in order to comply with employment laws.
Victims Of Abuse, Neglect Or Domestic Violence. We may release your health information to a public health authority that is authorized to receive reports of abuse, neglect or domestic violence. For example, we may report your information to government officials if we reasonably believe that you have been a victim of such abuse, neglect or domestic violence. We will make every effort to obtain your permission before releasing this information, but in some cases we may be required or authorized to act without your permission.
Health Oversight Activities. We may release your health information to government agencies authorized to conduct audits, investigations, and inspections of our facility. These government agencies monitor the operation of the health care system, government benefit programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and compliance with government regulatory programs and civil rights laws.
Product Monitoring, Repair And Recall. We may disclose your health information to a person or company that is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for the purpose of (1) reporting or tracking product defects or problems; (2) repairing, replacing, or recalling defective or dangerous products; or (3) monitoring the performance of a product after it has been approved for use by the general public.
Lawsuits And Disputes. We may disclose your health information if we are ordered to do so by a court or administrative tribunal that is handling a lawsuit or other dispute.
Law Enforcement. We may disclose your health information to law enforcement officials for the following reasons:
• To comply with court orders or laws that we are required to follow;
• To assist law enforcement officers with identifying or locating a suspect, fugitive, witness, or missing person;
• If you have been the victim of a crime and we determine that: (1) we have been unable to obtain your agreement because of an emergency or your incapacity; (2) law enforcement officials need this information immediately to carry out their law enforcement duties; and (3) in our professional judgment disclosure to these officers is in your best interests;
• If we suspect that your death resulted from criminal conduct;
• If necessary to report a crime that occurred on our property; or
• If necessary to report a crime discovered during an offsite medical emergency (for example, by emergency medical technicians at the scene of a crime).
To Avert A Serious And Imminent Threat To Health Or Safety. We may use your health information or share it with others when necessary to prevent a serious and imminent threat to your health or safety, or the health or safety of another person or the public. In such cases, we will only share your information with someone able to help prevent the threat. We may also disclose your health information to law enforcement officers if you tell us that you participated in a violent crime that may have caused serious physical harm to another person (unless you admitted that fact while in counseling), or if we determine that you escaped from lawful custody (such as a prison or mental health institution).
National Security And Intelligence Activities Or Protective Services. We may disclose your health information to authorized federal officials who are conducting national security and intelligence activities or providing protective services to the President or other important officials.
Military And Veterans. If you are in the Armed Forces, we may disclose health information about you to appropriate military command authorities for activities they deem necessary to carry out their military mission. We may also release health information about foreign military personnel to the appropriate foreign military authority.
Inmates And Correctional Institutions. If you are an inmate or you are detained by a law enforcement officer, we may disclose your health information to the prison officers or law enforcement officers if necessary to provide you with health care, or to maintain safety, security and good order at the place where you are confined. This includes sharing information that is necessary to protect the health and safety of other inmates or persons involved in supervising or transporting inmates.
Workers' Compensation. We may disclose your health information for workers' compensation or similar programs that provide benefits for work-related injuries.
Coroners, Medical Examiners And Funeral Directors. In the unfortunate event of your death, we may disclose your health information to a coroner or medical examiner. This may be necessary, for example, to determine the cause of death. We may also release this information to funeral directors as necessary to carry out their duties.
Organ And Tissue Donation. In the unfortunate event of your death, we may disclose your health information to organizations that procure or store organs, eyes or other tissues so that these organizations may investigate whether donation or transplantation is possible under applicable laws.
Research. In most cases, we will ask for your written authorization before using your health information or sharing it with others in order to conduct research. However, under some circumstances, we may use and disclose your health information without your written authorization if we obtain approval through a special process to ensure that research without your written authorization poses minimal risk to your privacy. Under no circumstances, however, would we allow researchers to use your name or identity publicly. We may also release your health information without your written authorization to people who are preparing a future research project, so long as any information identifying you does not leave our facility. In the unfortunate event of your death, we may share your health information with people who are conducting research using the information of deceased persons, as long as they agree not to remove from our facility any information that identifies you.
4. Completely De-identified Or Partially De-identified Information
We may use and disclose your health information if we have removed any information that has the potential to identify you so that the health information is "completely de-identified." We may also use and disclose "partially de-identified" health information about you if the person who will receive the information signs an agreement to protect the privacy of the information as required by federal and state law. Partially de-identified health information will not contain any information that would directly identify you (such as your name, street address, social security number, phone number, fax number, electronic mail address, website address, or license number).
5. Incidental Disclosures
While we will take reasonable steps to safeguard the privacy of your health information, certain disclosures of your health information may occur during, or as an unavoidable result of, our otherwise permissible uses or disclosures of your health information. For example, during the course of a treatment session, other patients in the treatment area may see, or overhear discussion of, your health information.
YOUR RIGHTS TO ACCESS AND CONTROL YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION
We want you to know that you have the following rights to access and control your health information. These rights are important because they will help you make sure that the health information we have about you is accurate. They may also help you control the way we use your information and share it with others, or the way we communicate with you about your medical matters.
1. Right To: Inspect And Copy Records
You have the right to inspect and obtain a copy of any of your health information that may be used to make decisions about you and your treatment for as long as we maintain this information in our records. This includes medical and billing records. To inspect or obtain a copy of your health information, please submit your request in writing to the Westchester Medical Center, Corporate Compliance, Executive Offices, Taylor Care Center, Valhalla, New York 10595. If you request a copy of the information, you will be charged a fee for the costs of copying, mailing or other supplies we use to fulfill your request. The standard fee is $0.75 per page and must generally be paid before or at the time we give the copies to you.
We will respond to your request for inspection of records within 10 days. We ordinarily will respond to requests for copies within 30 days if the information is located in our facility, and within 60 days if it is located off-site at another facility. If we need additional time to respond to a request for copies, we will notify you in writing within the time frame above to explain the reason for the delay and when you can expect to have a final answer to your request.
Under certain very limited circumstances, we may deny your request to inspect or obtain a copy of your information. If we do, we will provide you with a summary of the information instead. We will also provide a written notice that explains our reasons for providing only a summary, and a complete description of your rights to have that decision reviewed and how you can exercise those rights. The notice will also include information on how to file a complaint about these issues with us or with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. If we have reason to deny only part of your request, we will provide complete access to the remaining parts after excluding the information we cannot let you inspect or copy.
2. Right To Amend Records
If you believe that the health information we have about you is incorrect or incomplete, you may ask us to amend the information. You have the right to request an amendment for as long as the information is kept in our records. To request an amendment, please write to the Compliance Officer, Westchester Medical Center, Executive Offices, Taylor Care Center, Valhalla, New York 10595. Your request should include the reasons why you think we should make the amendment. Ordinarily, we will respond to your request within 60 days. If we need additional time to respond, we will notify you in writing within 60 days to explain the reason for the delay and when you can expect to have a final answer to your request.
If we deny part or all of your request, we will provide a written notice that explains our reasons for doing so. You will have the right to have certain information related to your requested amendment included in your records. For example, if you disagree with our decision, you will have an opportunity to submit a statement explaining your disagreement, which we will include in your records. We will also include information on how to file a complaint with us or with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. These procedures will be explained in more detail in any written denial notice we send you.
3. Right To An Accounting Of Disclosures
After April 14, 2003, you have a right to request an "accounting of disclosures" which identifies certain other persons or organizations to which we have disclosed your health information in accordance with applicable law and the protections afforded in this Notice of Privacy Practices. An accounting of disclosures does not describe the ways that your health information has been shared within the hospital, as long as all other protections described in this Notice of Privacy Practices have been followed (such as obtaining the required approvals before sharing your health information with our doctors for research purposes).
An accounting of disclosures also does not include information about the following disclosures:
• Disclosures we made to you or your personal representative;
• Disclosures we made pursuant to your written authorization;
• Disclosures we made for treatment, payment or business operations;
• Disclosures made from the patient directory;
• Disclosures made to your friends and family involved in your care or payment for your care;
• Disclosures that were incidental to permissible uses and disclosures of your health information (for example, when information is overheard by another patient passing by);
• Disclosures for purposes of research, public health or our business operations of limited portions of your health information that do not directly identify you;
• Disclosures made to federal officials for national security and intelligence activities;
• Disclosures about inmates to correctional institutions or law enforcement officers;
• Disclosures made before April 14, 2003.
To request an accounting of disclosures, please write to the Compliance Officer, Westchester Medical Center, Executive Offices, Taylor Care Center, Valhalla, New York 10595. Your request must state a time period within the past six years (but after April 14, 2003) for the disclosures you want us to include. For example, you may request a list of the disclosures that we made between January 1, 2004 and January 1, 2005. You have a right to receive one accounting within every 12-month period for free. However, we may charge you for the cost of providing any additional accounting in that same 12-month period. We will always notify you of any cost involved so that you may choose to withdraw or modify your request before any costs are incurred.
Ordinarily we will respond to your request for an accounting within 60 days. If we need additional time to prepare the accounting you have requested, we will notify you in writing about the reason for the delay and the date when you can expect to receive the accounting. In rare cases, we may have to delay providing you with the accounting without notifying you because a law enforcement official or government agency has asked us to do so.
4. Right To Request Additional Privacy Protections
You have the right to request that we further restrict the way we use and disclose your health information to treat your condition, collect payment for that treatment, or run our business operations. You may also request that we limit how we disclose information about you to family or friends involved in your care. For example, you could request that we not disclose information about a surgery you had. To request restrictions, please write to the Privacy Officer, Westchester Medical Center, Taylor Care Center, Valhalla, New York 10595. Your request should include (1) what information you want to limit;
(2) whether you want to limit how we use the information, how we share it with others, or both; and (3) to whom you want the limits to apply.
We are not required to agree to your request for a restriction, and in some cases the restriction you request may not be permitted under law. However, if we do agree, we will be bound by our agreement unless the information is needed to provide you with emergency treatment or comply with the law. Once we have agreed to a restriction, you have the right to revoke the restriction at any time. Under some circumstances, we will also have the right to revoke the restriction as long as we notify you before doing so; in other cases, we will need your permission before we can revoke the restriction.
5. Right To Request Confidential Communications