When is a HIPAA Release Form Necessary?

What are the Responsibilities of a HIPAA Compliance Officer?

A HIPAA release form signed by the patient ought to be acquired prior to sharing that individual’s protected health information (PHI) with other persons or companies, except in the instance of routine information sharing for treatment, payment or healthcare operations that are permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Short Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule

The HIPAA Privacy Rule (45 CFR §164.500-534) was signed into law on April 14, 2001. The major goal of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is to make certain that patient privacy is secured while letting health information pass freely between approved individuals and companies for standard healthcare operations.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule allows HIPAA-covered entities (healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates of HIPAA-covered entities) to use and disclose personally identifiable protected health information (PHI) without first obtaining permission from patients/health plan members for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. Whenever personally identifiable PHI is disclosed, the amount of data provided ought to be limited to the minimum required to fulfill the intention for which the data is disclosed.

The Privacy Rule likewise says that patients have the right to access their health information that is created, stored, or maintained by provider organizations and other HIPAA-covered entities. Patients are granted the right to obtain a copy of their health information and request that any errors are corrected.

It isn’t necessary for covered entities to get approval from patients any time there are routine data disclosures for the purposes of treatment, payment, or standard healthcare operations. For all other purposes, such as for research or marketing, HIPAA authorizations are required. Those authorizations need to explain in clear language, what PHI will be shared, the categories of individuals that will be provided with PHI, the situations when PHI will be shared, the duration of the authorization – including an expiry date or event, and the patient’s right to revoke the authorization.

When is a HIPAA Release Form Necessary?

A signed HIPAA release form ought to be obtained from a patient prior to sharing their PHI with third parties for any purpose apart from those described in 45 CFR §164.506, which are expressly covered in 45 CFR §164.508. These include:


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  • Any reason besides treatment, payment, or standard healthcare operations
  • Sharing of patient data weith an insurance underwriter
  • Disclosing PHI for reasons related to promotion or fund-raising
  • Before PHI is made available to a research organziation
  • Before disclosing psychotherapy records
  • Before selling PHI or disclosures that involve payment

What Information Needs to be Specified on a HIPAA Release Form

A HIPAA-compliant HIPAA release form ought to include:

  • A description of the data that is going to be utilized/disclosed
  • The intent for which the data will be disclosed
  • The name/s of the entity or person with whom patient information is going to be disclosed
  • The date or event when permission to utilize/disclose the data comes to an end, for instance, the end of a study
  • The signature and date the patient or his/her representative signs the release form. When a representative is putting his/her signature on the form, that representative’s relationship with the patient ought to be listed together with the information of the representative’s authority to act on behalf of the patient.

The HIPAA release form should also inform the patient of:

  • Their right to revoke their permission
  • Any conditions to the person’s right to revoke the permission
  • Information relating to how the right to revoke permission can be exercised
  • To the degree that a person’s right to revoke permission is covered in the notification mandated by § 164.520 (Notice of Privacy Practices)
  • That the covered entity cannot condition treatment, payment, applications for or qualifications for benefits on whether or not the person signs the permission
  • That there is potential for information shared under the conditions of the permission to be redisclosed by the receiver and not protected by 45 CFR Part 164, Subpart E
  • A HIPAA release form needs to be written in ordinary language to ensure it can be easily understood and a duplicate of the signed form must be given to the patient.
About Liam Johnson
Liam Johnson has produced articles about HIPAA for several years. He has extensive experience in healthcare privacy and security. With a deep understanding of the complex legal and regulatory landscape surrounding patient data protection, Liam has dedicated his career to helping organizations navigate the intricacies of HIPAA compliance. Liam focusses on the challenges faced by healthcare providers, insurance companies, and business associates in complying with HIPAA regulations. Liam has been published in leading healthcare publications, including The HIPAA Journal. Liam was appointed Editor-in-Chief of The HIPAA Guide in 2023. Contact Liam via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamhipaa/