Notice of Privacy Practices
Effective September 1, 2020
THIS NOTICE DESCRIBES HOW TRUECARE™ USES YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION, HOW IT MAY BE DISCLOSED, AND HOW YOU CAN ACCESS YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION. PLEASE REVIEW THIS NOTICE CAREFULLY.
North County Health Services (NCHS) and their associates at all locations are required by law to maintain the privacy of patients’ Protected Health Information (PHI) and to provide individuals with the following Notice of the legal duties and privacy practices with respect to PHI. We are required to abide by the terms of this Notice. We reserve the right to change the terms of this Notice and these new terms will affect all PHI that we maintain at that time.
Our Commitment Regarding Your Health Information
We understand that information about you and your health is confidential. We are committed to protecting the privacy of this information. Each time you visit a TrueCare facility, we create a record of the care and services you receive. We need this record to provide you with quality care and to comply with certain legal requirements. This notice applies to all records of your care generated by TrueCare.
This notice tells you about the ways in which we may use or disclose health information about you, as well as certain obligations we have regarding the use and disclosure of health information. It also describes your rights regarding your health information.
We hold a responsibility to safeguard your personal health information. We must give you this notice of our privacy practices, and follow the terms of this notice currently in effect. We will notify you in the event we become aware of an unauthorized access, use or disclosure of your protected health information.
Changes to this Notice
We reserve the right to change this notice. We reserve the right to make the revised or changed notice effective for health information we already have about you as well as any information we receive in the future. A copy of the current notice is posted in our facilities, available at registration, and on our web site at www.truecare.org.
How We May Use and Disclose Your Health Information
The following categories describe different ways that TrueCare uses your health information and may disclose your health information to other persons and entities. We have not listed every use or disclosure within the categories below, but all permitted uses and disclosures will fall within one of the following categories. In addition, there are some uses and disclosures that require your specific authorization.
Treatment: We use and disclose your protected health information to provide, coordinate or manage your health care and any related services. We may disclose health information about you to doctors, nurses, technicians, interns or other allied health personnel who are involved in taking care of your medical needs. We may communicate information to another non-TrueCare health care provider for the purposes of coordinating your continuing care, and may make that information available electronically.
Payment: We may use and disclose your information to bill for services provided and to obtain payment from you, an insurance company, a third party or a collection agency. This may include the disclosure of health information to obtain prior authorization for treatment and procedures from your insurance plan.
Health Care Operations: Uses and disclosures of health information are necessary to operate our health care facilities and to make sure all of our patients receive quality care. We may use and disclose relevant health information about you for health care operations. Examples include quality assurance activities, telephone calls to follow up on your health status, medical staff credentialing, administrative activities including financial and business planning and development, customer service activities including patient satisfaction surveys, and formal investigation of complaints.
Business Associates: TrueCare may use or disclose your PHI to an outside company that assists us in operating our health centers. They perform various services such as, auditing, legal services, or consulting services. These outside companies are called “Business Associates” and are required to keep any PHI received from us confidential in the same way we do. These companies may create or receive PHI on our behalf.
Situations That Require Your Authorization or Agreement
Communication with Individuals Involved in Your Care: With verbal agreement, or in an event necessary for care continuity where it could be inferred there would be no objection, we may disclose PHI about you to a family member, relative, or another person identified by you who is involved in your health care or payment for your health care. You also have the right to request a restriction on disclosure of your PHI to individuals who may be involved in your health care. If you are not present to consent, are incapacitated, or in an emergency or disaster relief situation, we will defer to professional judgment when determining whether disclosing limited PHI is in your best interest under present circumstances.
Special Situations That Do Not Require Your Authorization
State and/or Federal laws permit the following disclosures of your health information without obtaining verbal or written permission.
Organ and Tissue Donation: We may release health information to organizations that obtain, bank or transplant organs or tissues.
Research: We may use and share your health information for research. For example, comparing the health and recovery of all patients who received one medication to those who received another with the same condition. All research is subject to a strict approval process.
Worker’s Compensation: We will release health information about you for worker’s compensation or similar programs if you have a work-related injury.
Averting a Serious Threat to Health or Safety: We may use and disclose health information about you, when necessary, to prevent a serious threat to your health or safety or the health and safety of another person or the public. These disclosures would be made only to those in authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of our communities.
Health Oversight Activities: We may disclose health information to health oversight agencies for activities authorized by law. These oversight activities include audits, investigations, inspections and licensure. These activities are necessary for the government to monitor the health care system, government programs and compliance with civil rights laws.
Public Health Activities: We may disclose health information about you for public health activities. These generally include the following:
- To prevent or control disease, injury or disability
- To report births and deaths
- To report child and adult abuse or neglect
- To report adverse events or product defects or recalls
- To notify patients who may have been exposed to an illness, disease, or may be at risk for contracting or spreading an infectious disease.
Lawsuits and Disputes: If you are involved in a lawsuit or a dispute, we may disclose health information about you in response to a court or administrative order. We may disclose health information about you in response to a subpoena, discovery request or other lawful process by someone else involved in the dispute.
Law Enforcement: We may disclose health information if asked to do so by law enforcement officials for the following reasons:
- In response to a court order, subpoena, warrant, summons or similar process
- To identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness or missing person
- To release information about a death believed to be the result of criminal conduct
- Criminal conduct at our facility
- Mandated reporting of a crime, location of the crime or victims, or the identity, description or location of the person who may have committed the crime
Coroners, Medical Examiners and Mortuaries: We may disclose health information to a coroner or medical examiner. This may be necessary to identify a deceased person or determine the cause of death of a person.
Legal Requirements: We disclose health information about you without your permission when required to do so under federal, state or local law.
Health Information Exchanges and OCHA’s
Health Information Exchanges: We maintain your PHI in an electronic medical record system that allows TrueCare and their associates to access your PHI for specific reasons. We also participate in various electronic health information exchanges that facilitate access to PHI by other health care providers who provide you care. You can choose not to share your PHI through an electronic health information exchange by completing an opt-out form.
Organized Health Care Agreements (OCHA’s): TrueCare participates in organized health care arrangements including as a participant of OCHIN. A current list of OCHIN Member Health Centers is available at www.ochin.org. As a business associate of TrueCare, OCHIN supplies information technology and related services to TrueCare and other OCHIN Member Health Centers. OCHIN also engages in quality assessment and improvement activities on behalf of its Member Health Centers. For example, OCHIN coordinates clinical review activities on behalf of participating organizations to establish best practice standards and assess clinical benefits that may be derived from the use of electronic health record systems. OCHIN also helps TrueCare work collaboratively to improve the management of internal and external patient referrals. Your health information may be shared by TrueCare with other OCHIN Member Health Centers when necessary for health care operations purposes of the organized health care arrangement.
Special Categories of Treatment Information
In most cases, federal or state law requires your written authorization for disclosure of substance use treatment; Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) test results, and mental or behavioral health treatment.
Other Uses and Disclosures of PHI
If there are reasons we need to use your information not described in the sections above, we will obtain your written permission. This permission is described as an “authorization.” If you authorize us to use or disclose health information about you, you may revoke that authorization in writing at any time. If you revoke your authorization, we will no longer use or disclose health information about you for the reasons stated in your written authorization. Please understand that we are unable to take back any disclosures already made with your permission, and we are required to retain all records of the care we provide to you.
Personal Rights Regarding Your PHI
Please contact our Health Information Department for information or instructions on exercising any of the following rights.
Right to Inspect, Copy, or Receive Electronically: You have the right to inspect, copy or request electronic health data from your medical record that may have been used to make decisions about your care, subject to certain exceptions. Usually this includes medical and billing records, but may not include certain records based on certain requirements or exceptions under the law (for example: mental health information). There may be a nominal fee for processing these requests. Whether you want to review, receive a copy or electronic health record information, you must make the request in writing. You may also request access to our patient portal to assist with access to your information. We may also deny access to certain information on the portal. If we do deny access, we will give the reason, in writing. We will also explain how you may appeal the decision.
If you feel that PHI we have about you is incorrect or incomplete, you may ask us to amend the information. Requests for amending your PHI should be made to the Health Information Department.
You also have the right to inspect and receive a copy of your PHI that may be used to make decisions about your health by completing an Authorization for Use or Disclosure form.
Request to Change Communication Preference: If you reasonably believe that a disclosure of all or part of your PHI may endanger you, you may request in writing that we communicate with you in an alternative manner or at an alternative location. Your request must specify in writing the alternative means or location for communication with you.
You have the right to request certain restrictions of our use or disclosure of your PHI. We are not required to agree to your request, yet will comply with your request unless the information is needed to provide you emergency treatment. TrueCare will agree to restrict disclosure of PHI about an individual to a health plan if the purpose of the disclosure is to carry out payment and the PHI pertains solely to a service for which the individual has received as a self-pay patient.
You have the right to be notified in the event that TrueCare or one of our Business Associates discovers a breach of unsecured protected health information involving your medical information.
Questions or Complaints:
You may submit any questions or complaints with respect to violations of your privacy rights to the TrueCare Privacy Officer at (760) 736-6700.
You may also file a complaint directly with the Office of Civil Rights, Department of Health and Human Services, by calling (800) 368-1019 if you believe that any of your rights outlined have been violated.