Cindy Duggin, LICSW
Counseling for your mental and emotional wellbeing.
Notice of Privacy Practices
This notice describes how medical information about you may be used and disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please review it carefully.
Notice of Privacy Practices
Privacy is a very important concern for all those who come to this office. It is also complicated because of the many federal and state laws and our professional ethics. Because the rules are so complicated some parts of this Notice are very detailed and you probably will have to read them several times to understand them. If you have any questions our Privacy Officer will be happy to help you understand our procedures and your rights. Her name and address are at the end of this Notice.
A. Introduction – To our clients
This notice will tell you how we handle your medical information. It tells how we use this information here in this office, how we share it with other professionals and organizations, and how you can see it. We want you to know all of this so that you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Because the laws of this state and the laws of federal government are very complicated and we don’t want to make you read a lot that may not apply to you, we have removed a few small parts. If you have any questions or want to know more about anything in this Notice, please ask our Privacy Officer for more explanations or more details.
B. What we mean by your medical information
Each time you visit us information is collected about you and your physical and mental health. It may be information about your past, present or future health or conditions, or the tests and treatment you get from us or from others, or about payment for healthcare. The information we collect from you is called, in the law, PHI which stands for Protected Health Information. This information goes into your medial or healthcare record or file at the office.
In this office this PHI is likely to include these kinds of information:
- Your history: as a child, in school, and at work, marriage and personal history.
- Reasons you came for treatment: your problems, complaints, symptoms or needs.
- Diagnoses: the medical terms for your problems or symptoms.
- A treatment plan: a list of treatments and other services we think will help you.
- Progress notes: for each visit our notes show how you are doing, what we notice about you, and what you tell us.
- Records we get from others who treated you or evaluated you: only if you give us written permission to get those records.
- Psychological test scores, school records, or other reports.
- Information about medications you took or are taking.
- Legal matters.
- Billing and insurance information.
We use this information for many purposes. For example we may use it:
- To plan for your care and treatment.
- To decide how well our treatments are working for you.
- When we talk with other healthcare professionals who are also treating you such as your family doctor or the professional who referred you to us. This is with your written consent only.
- To show that you actually received the services from us which we billed to you or to your health insurance company or employee assistance plan.
- For teaching and training other healthcare professionals. This is with your written consent only.
- For medial or psychological research. This is with your written consent only.
- For public health officials trying to improve health care in this area of the country (very unlikely for mental health records).
- To improve the way we do our job by measuring the results of our work.
When you understand what is in your record and what it is used for you can make better decisions about whom, when, and why others should have this information.
Although your health record is the physical property of the healthcare practitioner or facility that collected it, the information belongs to you. You can read it and if you want a copy we can make one for you (but we are allowed to charge you for the costs of copying and mailing, if you want it mailed to you). In some very rare situations you cannot see all of what is in your records.* If you find anything in your records that you think is incorrect or believe that something important is missing you can ask us to amend (add information to) your record although in some rare situations we don’t have to agree to do that. If you want, our Privacy Officer, whose name is at the end of this Notice, can explain more about this.
C. Privacy and the laws
We are also required to tell you about privacy because of the privacy regulations of a federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The HIPAA law requires us to keep your Personal Healthcare Information (or PHI) private and to give you this notice of our legal duties and our privacy practices, called the Notice of Privacy Practices (or NPP). We will obey the rules of this notice as long as it is in effect but if we change it the rules of the new NPP will apply to all the PHI we keep. If we change the NPP we will post the new Notice in our office where everyone can see. You or anyone else can also get a copy from our Privacy Officer at any time. If we develop an agency website at any time, the Notice will be posted on that website.
D. How your protected health information can be used or shared
When your information is read by me or others in this office (none at the present time) and used by us to make decisions about your care that is called, in the law, “use.” If the information is shared with or sent to others outside this office, that is called, in the law, “disclosure.” Except in some special circumstances, when we use your PHI here or disclose it to others we share only the minimum necessary PHI needed for those other people to do their jobs. The law gives you rights to know about your PHI, how it is used and to have a say in how it is disclosed (shared) and so we will tell you more about what we do with your information.
We use and disclose PHI for several reasons. Mainly, we will use and disclose it for routine purposes and we will explain more about these below. For other uses we must tell you about them and have a written authorization from you unless the law lets or requires us to make the disclosure without your authorization. However, the law also says that there are some uses and disclosures that don’t need your consent or authorization.
1. Uses and disclosures of PHI in healthcare with your consent
After you have read this Notice you will be asked to sign a separate Consent Form to allow us to use and share your PHI. In almost all cases we intend to use your PHI here or share your PHI with other people or organizations to provide treatment to you, arrange for payment for our services, or some other business functions, in the law called healthcare operations. Together these routine purposes are called TPO and the Consent Form allows us to use and disclose your PHI for TPO. Take a minute to re-read that last sentence until it is clear because it is very important. Next we will tell you more about TPO.
1a. For treatment, payment, or health care operations
We need information about you and your condition to provide care to you. You have to agree to let us collect the information and to use it and share it to care for you properly. Therefore you must sign the Consent Form before we begin to treat you because if you do not agree and consent, we cannot treat you.
When you come to see us, only Cindy Duggin in our office will collect information about you and all of it may go into your healthcare records here. Generally, we may use or disclose your PHI for three purposes: treatment, obtaining payment, and what are called healthcare operations. Let’s see what these mean.
We use your medical information to provide you with psychological treatments or services. These might include individual, family or group therapy, treatment planning, or measuring the benefits of our services.
We may share or disclose your PHI to others who provide treatment to you. Except in rare cases, we will obtain a new authorization for any information shared with another professional who treats you. We are likely to share your information with your personal physician or psychiatrist. We may refer you to other professionals or consultants for services we cannot provide. When we do this we need to tell them some things about you and your conditions. We will get back their findings and opinions and those will go into your record here. If you receive treatment in the future from other professionals we can also share your PHI with them. These are some examples so that you can see how we use and disclose your PHI for treatment.
We may use your information to bill you, your insurance, or others so we can be paid for the treatments we provide to you. We may contact your insurance company to check on exactly what your insurance covers. We may have to tell them about your diagnoses, what treatments you have received, and the changes we expect in your conditions. We will need to tell them about when w e met, your progress, and other similar things.
For health care operations
There are a few other ways we may use or disclose your PHI for what are called health care operations. For example we may use your PHI to see where we can make improvements in the care and services we provide. We may be required to supply some information to some government health agencies so they can study disorders and treatment and make plans for services that are needed. If we do, your name and personal information will be removed from what we send.
1b. Other uses in healthcare
Appointment Reminders. We may use and disclose medical information to reschedule or remind you of appointments for treatment or other care. If you want us to call or write to you only at a particular location, we can usually arrange that. Just tell us.
Treatment Alternatives. We may use and disclose your PHI to tell you about or recommend possible treatments or alternatives that may be of help to you.
Other Benefits and Services. WE may use and disclose your PHI to tell you about health-related benefits or services that may be of interest to you.
Research. We may use or share your information to do research to improve treatments. For example, comparing two treatments for the same disorder to see which works better or faster or costs less. In all cases your name, address and other personal information will be removed from the information given to researchers. If they need to know who you are we will discuss the research project with you and you will have to sign a special authorization form before any information is shared.
Business Associates. There are some jobs we hire other businesses to do for us. IN the law, they are called our Business Associates. For example, Downtown Therapy Inc. hires a billing service to bill third party payers (your insurance company), and to send you statements. Other examples are a copy service to copy your records when required. These business associates need to receive some of your PHI to do their jobs properly. To protect your privacy they have agreed in their contract with us to safeguard your information.
2. Uses and disclosures that require your Authorization
If we want to use your information for any purpose besides the TPO or those we described above we need your permission on an authorization form. We don’t expect to need this very often.
If you do authorize us to use or disclose your PHI, you can revoke (cancel) that permission, in writing, at any time. After that time we will not use or disclose your information for the purposes that we agreed to. Of course, we cannot take back any information we had already disclosed with your permission or that we had used in our office.
3. Uses and disclosures of PHI from mental health records that don’t require a Consent or Authorization
The laws let us use and disclose some of your PHI without your consent or authorization in some cases. Here are examples of when we might have to share your information.
When required by law.
There are some federal, state or local laws which require us to disclose PHI.
- We have to report suspected child abuse.
- If you are involved in a lawsuit or legal proceeding and we receive a subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process we may have to release some of your PHI. We will only do so after trying to tell you about the request, consulting your lawyer, or trying to get a court order to protect the information they requested.
- We have to disclose some information to the government agencies which check on us to see that we are obeying the privacy laws.
For Law Enforcement Purposes
We may release medical information if asked to do so by a law enforcement official to investigate a crime or criminal.
For specific government functions
We may disclose PHI of military personnel and veterans to government programs relating to eligibility and enrollment. We may disclose your PHI to Workers Compensation and Disability programs, to correctional facilities if you are an inmate, and for national security reasons.
To Prevent a Serious Threat to Health or Safety
If we come to believe that there is a serious threat to your health or safety or that of another person or the public we can disclose some of you PHI. We will only do this to person who can prevent the danger.
4. Uses and disclosures where you have an opportunity to object
We can share some information about you with your family or close others. We will only share information with those involved in your care and anyone else you choose such as close friends or clergy. We will ask you about who you want us to tell what information about your condition or treatment. You can tell us what you want and we will honor your wishes as long as it is not against the law.
5. An accounting of disclosures
When we disclose your PHI we may keep some records of to whom we sent the PHI, when we sent it, and what we sent. You can get a list of many of these disclosures.
E. Your rights regarding your health information
1. You can ask us to communicate with you about your health and related issues in a particular way or at a certain place which is more private for you. For example, you can ask us to call you at home, and not at work to schedule or cancel an appointment. We will try our best to do as you ask.
2. You have the right to ask us to limit what we tell people involved in your care or the payment for your care, such as family members and friends. While we don’t have to agree to your request, if we do agree, we will keep our agreement except if it is against the law, or in an emergency, or when the information is necessary to treat you.
3. You have the right to look at the health information we have about you such as your medical and billing records. You may even get a copy of these records but we may charge you Contact our Privacy Officer to arrange how to see your records. See below.
4. If you believe the information in your records is incorrect or missing important information, you can ask us to make some kinds of changes (called amending) to your health information. You have to make this request in writing and send it to our Privacy Officer. You must tell us the reasons you want to make the changes.
5. You have the right to a copy of this notice. If we change this NPP we will post the new version in our waiting area and you can always get a copy of the NPP from the Privacy Officer.
6. You have the right to file a complaint if you believe your privacy rights have been violated. You can file a complaint with our Privacy Officer and with the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. All complaints must be in writing. Filing a complaint will not change the health care we provide to you in any way.
Also, you may have other rights which are granted to you by the laws of our state and these may be the same or different from the rights described above. I will be happy to discuss these situations with you now or as they arise.
F. If you have questions or problems
If you need more information or have questions about the privacy practices described above please speak to the Privacy Officer whose name and telephone number are listed below. If you have a problem with how your PHI has been handled or if you believe your privacy rights have been violated, contact the Privacy Officer. You have the right to file a complaint with us and with the Secretary of the Federal Department of Health and Human Services. We promise that we will not in any way limit your care here or take any actions against you if you complain.
If you have questions regarding this Notice or our health information privacy policies, please contact our Privacy Officer:
Cindy Duggin, LLC.,
706 N 129th Street, Suite 103,
Omaha, NE 68154
The Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Room 509F, HHH Building,
Washington, D.C., 20201.
The effective date of this notice is June 3, 2015.
This version was created May 26, 2021.