Release of Records
In North Carolina a “health-care provider” is defined as a “person who… is licensed or otherwise registered or certified to engage in the practice of … medicine, surgery, dentistry, pharmacy, optometry, midwifery, osteopathy, podiatry, chiropractic, radiology, nursing, physiotherapy, pathology, anesthesiology, anesthesia, laboratory analysis, rendering assistance to a physician, dental hygiene, psychiatry, psychology; or a hospital… or a nursing home.” (N.C. Gen. Stat. 90-21.11). Any set of records which is generated for health-care purposes is protected by a North Carolina law which establishes confidentiality. Confidential information obtained in medical records shall be furnished only on authorization of the patient. However, a judge may, subject to N.C. Gen. Stat. 8-53.6, compel disclosure if, in his opinion, disclosure is necessary to a proper administration of justice.
Also protected are communications between psychologists, school counselors, marital and family therapists, social workers and counselors. Our courts have indicated that the purposes of the physician-patient privilege are to encourage the patient to disclose fully pertinent information to a physician so that proper treatment may be prescribed, to protect a patient against public disclosures of socially stigmatized diseases and to shield the patient from self-incrimination. A breach of the privilege of confidentiality that exists between patients and health-care providers is actionable as a claim for malpractice against the health-care provider.
However, a patient can, either orally or in writing, authorize release of medical records. Physicians have an affirmative duty to provide medical information at the request of the patient, who has a corresponding right to examine his or her own records. Patients can request that information be released to individuals designated by the patient. Under the “Buckley Amendment,” 20 U.S.C. 1232g, “medical records must be disclosed, upon request by a student, to a physician” or other appropriate professional of the student’s choice.
Verified June 2011