Hospital Visits: Make Your Wishes Known
Most of us have, in some way, experienced HIPAA – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Since the law took effect several years ago, hospitals and retirement communities have been prohibited from disclosing medical information. As a result, clergy are finding it difficult to learn when one of the members of their congregation has been hospitalized or has died. At times this can result in frustration, anger and even damaged relationships. But there is a way we can ensure the continuation of our pastoral support during these times. Read on to see what you can do to help.
What is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was created to give patients greater control over who has access to their personal information. Does HIPAA allow bulletins and newsletters to carry prayer requests? Can we still have a prayer or email prayer chain?
Yes, as long as the information was not obtained from a health care employee who had access to the patient’s information. Because of heightened awareness regarding privacy, it is still a good idea to ask someone what information he or she wants included in prayer chains, printed materials and public prayers.
Why didn’t my pastor visit me in the hospital?
HIPAA prevents hospitals and retirement communities from contacting a patient’s congregation upon admission, unless prior consent has been given. Even with prior consent, these wishes are often not communicated. The only way to guarantee that clergy know about your hospitalization is to contact the congregation yourself.
What can I do to make sure that my congregation and other friends know about my hospitalization?
Now is the time to share your wishes with your family and friends. Simply tell them to contact your pastor whenever you are hospitalized – and to add your name to the prayer list at church. Most clergy assume that you want a visit in either a hospital or retirement community; they just need to know you are there!