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When is it permissable to release patient information without permission?

Sometimes it is permissible to release patient information without permission.  But when?  This recent letter from the HHS provides some helpful answers:

“I wanted to take this opportunity to ensure that you are aware that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule does not prevent your ability to disclose necessary information about a patient to law enforcement, family members of the patient, or other persons, when you believe the patient presents a serious danger to himself or other people…” Read the entire letter.

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