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A Message to CAMFT Members Regarding the Coronavirus
March 8, 2020 - April 30, 2020
A Message to CAMFT Members Regarding the Coronavirus
CAMFT continues to receive a number of inquiries about the impact of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on CAMFT events and on the businesses and lives of CAMFT members. As new cases continue to occur in California and across the country, CAMFT has been keeping a close eye on the developments of this outbreak. Below are some helpful resources as well as important information for you and your clients.
WHAT DO I DO IF MY CLIENTS OR STAFF ARE WORRIED ABOUT CORONAVIRUS?
- Click here for a valuable Safety and Readiness Guide from the Red Cross. You can post this in your office and share with your clients, as well as follow these protocols for your own well-being.
- If you work in a hospital or clinic setting, be sure to follow your organization’s protocols for safety and readiness.
- If you work in private practice, look into HIPAA Compliant Telehealth options to see clients remotely if that need arises until the scare is contained. If you take insurance, it will be important to check on reimbursement policies regarding Telehealth platforms.
- You can view regular Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updates by clicking here.
HOW IS CORONAVIRUS IMPACTING THE CAMFT ANNUAL CONFERENCE?
- Because the risk to Californians is still very small, CAMFT continues to plan for our Annual Conference in Orange County, April 30 through May 2. If this changes, we will be sure to contact all members.
- The Hyatt Regency Orange County, our hotel partner for the Annual Conference, has assured us that they have put additional sanitization procedures in place. CAMFT will also be sure to implement added safeguards at the event if the Coronavirus is still a factor in late April.
COULD THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK IMPACT LEGAL ISSUES FOR THERAPISTS?
- We encourage therapists to adopt sensitive, clinically appropriate approaches to situations where patients who are sick are being asked to stay home or to engage in services via Telehealth. Therapists should also be careful not to engage in racial profiling or nationality-based discrimination in these situations. And remember, psychotherapists are required to keep patient communications and clinical records confidential and may only release information according to a patient’s valid authorization or as required or permitted by law.
- The following FAQs are intended to offer members information and resources on relevant laws. These FAQs do not serve as legal advice nor a substitute for legal advice. Members who have additional questions may contact the CAMFT Legal Department.
Q: I’ve received a court order signed by a judge or a search warrant issued by a judge requesting confidential patient information. Do I have to release?
A: Court Order—You must disclose patient confidential information as requested by a court pursuant to an order of that court. The court order must be signed by a judge. (Civil Code §56.10(b)(1).)
Search Warrant—You must disclose patient confidential information as requested by a search warrant lawfully issued to a governmental law enforcement agency. (Civil Code §56.10(b)(6).)
Q: My patient passed away and I just received a request for patient information from the coroner’s office. Do I have to release?
A: You must disclose confidential information of a deceased patient as requested by a medical examiner, forensic pathologist, or coroner, when requested in the following:
- In the course of an investigation by such persons for the purpose of identifying the deceased patient or locating next of kin;
- When investigating the patient’s death that may involve public health concerns, organ or tissue donation, child abuse, elder abuse, suicides, poisonings, accidents, sudden infant deaths, suspicious deaths, unknown deaths, or criminal deaths;
- Upon notification of, or investigation of, imminent deaths that may involve organ or tissue donation. (Civil Code §56.10(b)(8).)
Q: A medical professional at a hospital treating my patient is requesting confidential patient information. Must I disclose?
A: Diagnosis and Treatment—You may (but are not required to) disclose patient confidential information to providers of health care and health care facilities for limited purposes of diagnosis or treatment of the patient. (Civil Code §56.10(c)(1).) We recommend, if practicable, that you obtain the patient’s authorization prior to disclosing confidential information. When disclosing information, therapists should make reasonable efforts to limit the information disclosed to that which is the “minimum necessary” to accomplish the purpose.
Q: The local county health department has requested my patient’s information. Do I have to release?
A: Prevention or Controlling Disease—You may (but are not required to, unless there is a court order or search warrant) disclose confidential information to a local health department for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability and for the purpose of public health surveillance, interventions, or investigations. (Civil Code §56.10(c)(18).) As discussed above, we recommend to obtain the patient’s authorization prior to disclosing patient information. When disclosing information, therapists should make reasonable efforts to limit the information disclosed to that which is the “minimum necessary” to accomplish the purpose.
Q: The Red Cross is asking for my patient’s information. Do I have to release?
A: Disclosures for Disaster Relief Efforts—You may (but are not required to) disclose patient confidential information to a public or private entity to assist in disaster relief efforts, for the purpose of coordinating the notification to family members (or those involved in the patient’s care) of the patient’s location, general condition, or death. (Civil Code §56.1007(e).) As discussed above, we recommend if practicable, to obtain the patient’s authorization prior to disclosing confidential information. When disclosing information, therapists should make reasonable efforts to limit the information disclosed to that which is the “minimum necessary” to accomplish the purpose.
Q: I am concerned about a patient who is ill and reports exposure to Coronavirus, can I refuse to see the patient?
A: If you work in a hospital, clinic, or other setting, be sure to follow your employer’s protocols for safety and readiness. If a patient reports that they are ill or may have been exposed to any communicable illness, including but not limited to Coronavirus, you may request the patient not come in for session until they are feeling well (or after consultation with a healthcare provider which can give you reasonable assurances that they are not contagious). If practicable and suitable for the patient, you may consider offering Telehealth sessions.
Q: Can I offer Telehealth services to my patients?
A: Telehealth is a recognized method of offering treatment services via information and communication technologies, such as videoconferencing or telephone. If you work in a hospital, clinic, or other setting, check with your employer to see if Telehealth is an option. If you work for your own practice, you may consider Telehealth as an alternative method of rendering services. Read CAMFT’s article on California’s laws and regulations for Telehealth. If you take insurance, it is recommended that you check with the patient’s plans and your managed care contracts on reimbursement policies for Telehealth services. You can review CAMFT’s article on Telehealth CPT Codes. You may also want to consider looking into electronic payment platforms in order to collect payments from patients you are treating via Telehealth.