The privacy of health care information/medical records for university students that are maintained by University Health Services (UHS) is protected by a federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and several state laws. The protections of FERPA and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which also protects the privacy of personal health information, are very similar. In compliance with these laws, as a general policy, we do not disclose information to family members or others without the consent of the student. However, in an emergency situation, our professional staff will exercise professional judgment to determine if family members, usually parents, should be informed of the situation even if the student withholds consent.
Parents concerned about non-emergent health care situations with their student should ask their student grant U HS permission to speak with parents. UHS requires written consent to formally release medical records but students may grant permission over the phone for UHS clinical staff to speak with a parent or guardian.
We are often asked if the student can sign a “blanket” release of information form and our answer is no. In health care matters, such prospective (advance) releases are not legally defensible and can be revoked by the student at any time. A telephone/verbal authorization form must be completed by your student and is valid for only one year. This must indicate a specific description of the information to be discussed. This should be completed after your student has established medical or mental health care at UHS.
With a student’s permission, UHS clinicians speak with parents regularly and appreciate parental involvement a student’s care when it is appropriate. UHS clinicians work closely with students and their parents when a student experiences a significant, but not life threatening, illness or injury. Clinicians encourage students to allow them to contact their parents in these cases. However, if the student declines, the clinician legally must respect the student’s decision.