Health Care Professional's Corner
County Health Departments (CHDs) in Florida are required to investigate cases of communicable disease. The Florida Bureau of Epidemiology relies on CHDs, healthcare professionals, laboratories and other public health personnel to report occurrence of notifiable diseases. Without this timely surveillance data, trends cannot be accurately detected or monitored, and unusual disease occurrences and outbreaks may be missed, delaying appropriate public health control efforts.
Florida Statute Section 381.0031 states that, “any practitioner, licensed in Florida to practice medicine, osteopathic medicine, chiropractic, naturopathy, or veterinary medicine, who diagnoses or suspects the existence of a disease of public health significance shall immediately report the fact to Department of Health.” The statute also states that, “the department may obtain and inspect copies of medical records, records of laboratory tests, and other medical-related information for reported cases of diseases of public health significance.”
Health care providers are often reluctant to divulge patient information because of Health Information Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) regulations. It is important to note that Public Health Reporting is EXEMPT from HIPAA. According to HIPAA S160.203, “disease reporting, public health disease surveillance, and disease intervention activities are among those EXEMPT from federal preemption of state laws.” Thus, medical professionals who allow the health department to obtain patient information cannot be held liable for the records disclosure.
Please share this information with your staff to ensure timely data collection for the protection of the public’s health.
Below are some helpful websites in reference to HIPAA.