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3 Important Things Injured Workers Should Know About Their Private Medical Data

Getting injured at work isn’t on anybody’s to-do list. Unfortunately, workplace injuries can happen to anybody. After a workplace injury, many employees aren’t sure what to do next.

  • Should I report the injury to HR or management?
  • Am I eligible for workers’ compensation?
  • Will my insurance cover my treatment, or will my employers?
  • If my employer files a claim, should I still file with my insurance company?

Every situation and employer is different, with varying procedures for handling workplace injuries. But, no matter where you work or how you were injured, there are three things you should know about your private medical data and how it’s shared.

1. Your medical information is private and cannot be shared without your knowledge.

The information you discuss with your healthcare provider is private. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to establish a set of national standards for the protection of certain health information.

While some health information must be shared to enable providers to offer the best possible care, patient privacy is essential. The HIPAA Privacy Rule makes it possible for providers to access the details they need while protecting patient data privacy. It’s a delicate balance, and it is the core of high-quality healthcare.

If you get hurt at work, your employer or their insurance company may wish to speak with your doctor about your treatment and status. They may only do so with your express knowledge. 

Minnesota Statute § 176.138(a) states:

In all cases of a request for the data or discussion with a medical provider about the data, except when it is the employee who is making the request, the employee shall be sent written notification of the request by the party requesting the data at the same time the request is made or a written confirmation of the discussion.

This statute ensures that you are fully aware of any information your doctor’s office provides on your behalf.

2. Employers and insurance companies may request information from your doctor.

Injuries at work are more difficult simply because employers must be involved with the process. If a workers’ compensation claim is filed, insurance companies become involved as well. In these instances, employees should expect that some level of detail about their injury and care will be shared with their employer, their employer’s insurance company, or both.

Does that mean your employer should have free access to your medical data and history? Of course not. But they will need to know certain details about your prognosis and treatment so they can prepare for your safe return to work, and prepare the necessary documents for filing a claim with their insurance provider.

If you have questions about your employer’s processes and procedures pertaining to workplace injuries, please consult your employee handbook, HR team, supervisor or company leadership first for more information. Schroeder & Mandel is here to help facilitate these conversations, if necessary.

3. Different providers have different policies. Ask your provider about how they share private medical information.

Most doctors’ offices have a policy that they do not disclose information about their patients without written authorization. This enables patients to control the information shared and allows providers to share the necessary data while adhering to HIPAA compliance measures.

Schroeder & Mandel’s medical authorizations specifically state, “If you do not want to give your permission for a person from this health care facility to talk to a person from the organization requesting information, indicate that here (check or initial) _______.

Your decision on this important medical authorization is binding for your doctor. If you do not wish for them to speak with anyone outside the practice about your particular case, they cannot.

If you are an injured worker and you find out your doctor’s office has been disclosing information without your knowledge, contact one of the attorneys at Schroeder & Mandel for assistance. We’re on your side to fight for the justice you deserve.