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Requesting Medical Records from Colleges and Schools: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents about FERPA

Medical records are a crucial part of any individual’s health history. They provide a comprehensive account of a person’s health status, medical conditions, treatments, and progress over time. For students, these records can be particularly important as they transition from adolescence to adulthood, often away from home for the first time. This article will guide you through the process of requesting medical records from colleges and schools, explaining why you might need to do so, who is authorized to make such requests, what information is included in these records, and how to handle them once received.

Who can request medical records

Generally, the individual to whom the medical records pertain has the right to request them. However, in the case of minors, parents or legal guardians are typically authorized to request these records. This right extends until the child turns 18, at which point, the law known as HIPAA protects patient information, and written permission is required for others to access the records. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as when the minor consents to care and the consent of the parent is not required under state law, or when the minor obtains care at the direction of a court or a person appointed by the court.

What information is included in medical records

Medical records can include a variety of information, such as clinical encounter summaries, lab results, immunization records, medication lists, and more. These records are maintained by the healthcare providers and are subject to various city, state, and federal laws, including HIPAA and FERPA, to ensure the privacy and security of the information.

How to request medical records from colleges and schools

The process of requesting medical records typically involves submitting a written request to the appropriate department at the school or college. This request may need to include specific forms or documents, and may need to be submitted in person, by mail, or online. The time it takes to receive the records can vary, but it is typically within 10 business days. There may also be associated fees, particularly if the records are not being sent directly to another healthcare provider.

What to do with the records once you receive them

Once you receive the medical records, it’s important to keep them safe and accessible for future use. These records can be crucial for informing future healthcare decisions and providing a comprehensive picture of the student’s health history. It’s also important to control who has access to these records to protect the student’s privacy. If necessary, the records can be updated by contacting the healthcare provider or institution that maintains them.

Conclusion

Requesting and managing a student’s medical records can be a crucial part of supporting their health and wellbeing during their time at college or school. Understanding the process, knowing who is authorized to make these requests, and knowing how to handle the records once received can help ensure that the student’s health history is accurately documented and appropriately managed.

FAQ

What are the legal requirements for schools to release medical records to parents or legal guardians?

The legal requirements for schools to release medical records to parents or legal guardians are primarily governed by two federal laws: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Under FERPA, schools generally must have written permission from the parent or eligible student to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, under certain conditions. These rights transfer to the student when they reach the age of 18 or attend a school beyond the high school level. Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records due to reasons such as great distance.

FERPA permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from an eligible student’s education records, without consent, to the parents of the eligible student if the student is a dependent student, as defined under section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code.

HIPAA generally does not protect minors’ medical records from being released to their parents or guardians. However, there are exceptions, such as when the minor consents to care and the consent of the parent is not required under state law, or when the minor obtains care at the direction of a court or a person appointed by the court.

State laws can also impact the release of medical records. Some states have laws that allow minors to give consent for some kinds of health care, which may affect the release of medical records. Therefore, consulting state laws for any additional requirements is advisable.

What is FERPA and how does it relate to student medical records?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It applies to all schools that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA grants parents certain rights over their children’s education records, which transfer to the student when they turn 18 years old or enter a postsecondary institution at any age.

The relationship between FERPA and student medical records is nuanced. Student health records may be classified as education records under FERPA, thus receiving the same privacy protections. This includes health records maintained by schools or their agents, such as a school nurse or health clinic. However, FERPA does not cover health information obtained by a school official through personal knowledge or observation, unless this information is formally recorded as part of an education record.

The applicability of FERPA to student health records varies depending on several factors. For example, health records of eligible students (those at least 18 years old or attending a postsecondary institution) maintained by health clinics or other healthcare facilities affiliated with the institution are typically considered education records under FERPA. On the other hand, patient records maintained by a hospital affiliated with a university, which provide services regardless of the person’s student status, are not typically considered education records under FERPA. Instead, these records are governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, including the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

In summary, FERPA plays a significant role in safeguarding the privacy of student education records, including some health records. The specific application of FERPA to student health records can depend on various factors, such as the student’s age and the nature of the entity maintaining the records.

What types of medical records are covered under FERPA?

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), various types of student medical records are considered “education records” and are therefore protected. These records include:

  1. Health Records Maintained by Schools: This category encompasses records such as immunization information and other health records that are directly related to a student and maintained by a school nurse or a school’s health clinic.
  2. Treatment Records: These are records created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in their professional capacity for treating a student. Treatment records are considered education records if they are shared with individuals other than treatment professionals or used for purposes other than treatment.
  3. Billing Records: Billing records maintained by college- or university-run health clinics for students are classified as education records under FERPA.
  4. Records Maintained by Campus Health Clinics: Student health records maintained by campus health clinics and other healthcare facilities operated by educational institutions fall under FERPA as long as they qualify as educational records or treatment records.

FERPA’s protection of student health records means that schools are generally prohibited from disclosing personally identifiable information from these records unless there is prior written consent from the parent or eligible student, or an applicable exception under FERPA permits the disclosure without consent.

What are the consequences for schools that violate FERPA requirements for releasing student medical records?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Schools that do not comply with FERPA’s requirements for releasing student medical records can face significant consequences. The most severe penalty for non-compliance with FERPA can be the withdrawal of U.S. Department of Education funds from the institution or agency that has violated the law. This penalty can apply to schools, school districts, and state education agencies.

The Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education, responsible for reviewing and investigating complaints, aims to encourage voluntary compliance with the law. While findings of non-compliance have not yet led to the withdrawal of federal funds, a third party who improperly discloses personally identifiable information from student records can face penalties.

Schools are also held accountable for the actions of their vendors regarding data handling. If a vendor intentionally or accidentally misuses students’ education records, the school would be considered responsible. This necessitates that schools meticulously screen vendors to ensure their FERPA compliance.

If a student reports a violation to the Department of Education, the institution could face potential consequences. Therefore, it is essential for schools to adhere to FERPA’s requirements when releasing student medical records to avoid these potential penalties.