Electronic Health Records
HIPAA and FERPA
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.
Every time a clinician or UHS medical or mental health care staff member interacts with a patient—in an appointment, on the phone, or through secure messaging—information is documented in a medical record (also called ‘health record’). UHS Health Information Management (HIM) staff maintain student electronic health records (EHR). The HIM staff are trained to ensure these records are complete, confidential, and accessible to students. The privacy and confidentiality of student records is protected by law.
Health Record Requests
Although a student’s health record is the physical property of UHS (or the facility that compiled them), a student may submit an Authorization for Release of Health Records request to access or obtain a copy of their records. There is no cost for copies of health records:
- Sent or delivered to another health care facility
- Obtained for a student’s personal records
- Needed them for school-related purposes
Students will need to show proper identification (e.g., valid UW student ID or driver’s license) to pick-up medical records in person. Otherwise, the records will be mailed.
UHS bills for medical record copies in accordance with Wisconsin Laws HRS 117.06 and 146.83 when releasing records to attorneys or insurance companies. These bills go to the insurer or law firm, not the student.
Special permission is required to release student health records regarding alcohol or other drug assessments/treatments, HIV/AIDS testing or treatment, or counseling services. Please contact the UHS Medical Records office at 608-262-1676 for more information.
Continuity of care health care records will be issued up to five business days after the request. Same day urgent requests are honored. Mental health summary of care records are issued between 10 and 14 business days after the request. This includes records to self or other third parties.
Maintain Personal Health Records
It is a good idea to maintain personal medical records to quickly access health information when necessary. Your own records can be as simple as filing all of the medical documents and data in a folder. UHS keeps copies of every documented communication with a student so the student does not need to but it is good practice to maintain copies of any significant tests performed at a hospital. Documents that belong in your own medical records include:
- advance directives
- personal identification
- emergency contact(s)
- health insurance information
- medication (and any other) allergies
- contact information for your primary care clinician, dentist, optometrist, and pharmacist
- current medications
- immunization dates
- important test results (e.g., X-rays, MRI, CT)
- dental information
- eye prescription
- organ donor authorization
- documentation of important events in your medical history
- Authorization for Release of Health Records
- Notice of Privacy Information for Students
- Notice of Privacy Practices for Non Students
Release of Information
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.
What’s in a Health Record?
A student’s health record is a collection of those documentations. Common documentation found in health records includes:
- immunization and health history form (completed in MyUHS)
- any appointment or treatment at UHS
- lab reports
- radiology reports (X-rays)
- secure messages between student and UHS clinician
- copies of referrals received
- consult reports (a visit summary)
- any time health information was released
- any documents received from other clinics (i.e., previous medical records)
Although a student’s health record is the physical property of UHS (or the facility that compiled them), a student may submit an Authorization for Release of Health Records request to access or obtain a copy of their records.
Protecting Student Privacy
The confidentiality, privacy, and security of student medical records are the responsibility of the health care facility that owns them, but students can help maintain confidentiality.
- Be aware of what personal health information is collected
- Be aware of who collects personal health information
- Understand who is in charge of student health records
- Inquire about the health care facility’s confidentiality practices
- Read the fine print before health information is authorized for release
- Confirm the authorization specifies the recipient and the purpose of use
UHS medical and mental health records are protected by federal law. UHS does not disclose information to parents or guardians for students over the age of 18 without the student’s consent. Students have the right to receive information about and assistance with advance directives and designating someone (known as a health care power of attorney) to make health care decisions for them in the event that they are unable. Being a Designated Agent for Advance Directives or Health Care Power of Attorney does not automatically allow access to the medical records.