When a spouse or significant other is struggling with substance use disorder, it can be difficult to accept that rehab may be the necessary first step needed. Yet, the journey ahead can be challenging for couples who choose to seek addiction treatment. One thing that many spouses worry about is how to learn about their partners’ progress in rehab. After all, HIPAA regulations limit the type of information that can be shared. But, how does this apply to spouses? Read on to learn how to get information about your partners’ rehab progress. 

What’s HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law that requires the creation of national standards to protect health information from being shared without the patient’s consent or knowledge. Today, HIPAA helps keepmaintain treatment information private, regardless of why people seek treatment.

Substance Abuse Confidentiality Regulations

Besides HIPAA, people being treated for a substance use disorder have additional protections in place. This was initially done to address concerns about using SUD information in domestic and criminal proceedings. Under these regulations, substance abuse information cannot be disclosed without consent, as it could represent a barrier to seeking treatment. 

Rehab programs are subject to privacy regulations under 42 CFR Part 2 and HIPAA Privacy Rule. Under these regulations, a provider may not share information in a SUD patient’s record, unless the provider obtains consent or identifies an exception to the rule that authorized the disclosure. 

Violation of Federal laws and regulations by the treatment center is considered a crime. Suspected violators can be reported to the appropriate authorities. The intake specialist will provide you with the HIPAA information upfront when you check into rehab. They will ask you to sign all the paperwork that ensures you understand your rights related to HIPAA and other confidentiality regulations. 

How to Get Information According to HIPAA

While rehab is tightly sealed about sharing patients’ information, spouses and family members may access some information. There are ways to get information about a patients’ progress in rehab while following HIPAA compliance processes. 

Consent Forms

Rehab centers often provide patients with consent forms. These forms give staff permission to share your health information and progress with others besides your clinical team. This can allow your doctor or therapist to share information with your family during your rehab stay. If the patient signs consent for a family member or spouse, they can call and receive updates about treatment. 

It’s important to note that consent forms can be very specific. Depending on the patients’ requests, they can decide “who” the staff discloses information, the amount, and even the kind of health information being shared. For example, a patient may want their spouse to be updated on their treatment. In this case, the consent form will identify the spouse as the sole person authorized to receive updates. 

If the patient doesn’t sign a consent form to disclose information, no one will receive any information, including their spouse, children, or family members. 

Learn About The Rehab Center’s Policies

Each rehab facility has its own rules for when and how often patients communicate with family and friends. However, keep in mind these policies only cover information shared by the patient, not the staff. Since the medical team has to follow HIPAA regulations, they won’t share health information with you unless your spouse signs a consent form. Nonetheless, if the rehab center allows patients to communicate with their loved ones, you must understand their policies and procedures. 

Be Active In Your Spouse’s Treatment Plan

Most rehab facilities encourage family participation in treatment and recovery. Not only will this help you come to terms with the situation, but it can help your spouses’ chances at a full recovery. Speak to the staff to learn about the possibility of attending family therapy or couples therapy sessions. Learn about the different ways you can participate in your spouses’ treatment plan without interfering. This can help you get first-hand access to your spouses’ progress and receive updates about their health information. 

Finding Help for a Loved One

Having a loved one struggling with addiction is never easy. First and foremost, feel proud of them for seeking treatment and taking the first step toward recovery. If you have a spouse or partner in rehab, ask about the different ways you can help. And, don’t forget to also seek help and support for yourself by attending group meetings and support groups.