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Yes, you’re protected: Patient privacy is paramount at Cornerstone of Recovery


By Michael Wildsmith, MBA, CHCO, HIPAA Privacy and Security Officer at Cornerstone of Recovery

Making the decision to seek help for addiction treatment is a tough choice, and we recognize that at Cornerstone of Recovery.

It is difficult to ask for help sometimes, especially when you feel ashamed and embarrassed. The disease of addiction can do that to you — it can make you feel guilty for what you’ve done or what you’ve thought you might do while in your active addiction.

Maybe you feel guilty for hurting your loved ones with your addiction. Maybe you feel like you’ve let down your coworkers, boss, wife, kids, family or friends. As a result of those overwhelming feelings, more than likely there are people in your life or community that you would rather not find out that you are going in to treatment. When you come to the decision to ask for help and come to Cornerstone, as soon as you come through the doors, we want you to trust us.

Patient privacy rights

HIPAA — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act — was first passed by the federal government in 1996 and has been revised several times over the years since.

The original intent was to ensure continuation of health insurance coverage, but those revisions have tightened privacy restrictions for patient health care information. It now governs a set of standards that protect patients’ medical records and other health information provided to insurance companies, physicians, hospitals, addiction treatment centers and other health care providers.

As part of the admission process, our skilled counselors will ask you who you want to be involved in your treatment. Be sure to take this seriously. We are agreeing to not only comply with federal HIPAA laws and other privacy laws; we are agreeing to honor your wishes and share information only with those trusted individuals to whom you give us permission. You will sign a very specific form on your electronic medical record for each of these individuals.

These authorization to release information forms will detail specific sections of health information from your chart that you are giving Cornerstone permission to share. If you are not sure what each section of health information listed on the form is, ask the admitting counselor. We encourage you to read these forms carefully.

These release forms are active for two years, meaning the individuals you authorize us to share your information with can be contacted up to two years after the forms are signed. It’s set up this way for several reasons. First, if you have any employer or legal representatives with whom you want us to share your health information, we often find that occasions arise after your discharge from treatment that require you to verify that you were here. Secondly, Cornerstone’s recovery coaching staff members want to keep in touch with you after you complete treatment in order to monitor your progress and make our resources available to you as part of our Aftercare process.

Your records, your rights

Remember, as our patient, you completely control how much information we can share with these individuals. At any time throughout your treatment stay, you can change a previously signed authorization form, or completely revoke a form, and that prohibits Cornerstone from sharing any more of your health information with that particular individual.

Rest assured, your confidentiality and health information are secure. Cornerstone of Recovery is bound to comply with all federal HIPAA privacy and security laws, as we are a covered entity. Because Cornerstone receives federal assistance, we are also bound to comply with the federal law pertaining to the confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records (called 42 CFR Part 2, or “Part 2”). This is a law that has been around since the 1970s that pertains solely to substance abuse treatment centers, and a large portion of these particular regulations are stricter that HIPAA laws. Cornerstone of Recovery and its entire workforce must adhere to the strictest of these laws.

These guidelines are set up for your protection, and to insure that your trust in us is well-placed. Our workforce is required to consistently attend training and implement the best possible practices for maintaining patient confidentiality. Our facilities are audited and monitored regularly to ensure we have adequate safeguards in place to protect your privacy and confidentiality while you are in treatment with us.

During your stay, we want to ease any concerns you have about the sharing of your health care information so that you’re better able to focus on the recovery process. Because of the guidelines and practices we have in place, you don’t have to worry about people finding out about your treatment stay, unless you specifically want them to know.

This is yet another reason for you to place your trust in Cornerstone. We hope you find this information helpful on what to expect regarding your confidentiality and health care information, and for even more details, we encourage you to check out our Privacy Practices, which can be found on our website.

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