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Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

How HIPAA Affects SARTs

The rule may affect SART programs when individuals are not clear on HIPAA exemptions and permissible disclosures. For example—

  • Some health care facilities refuse to activate advocates due to their interpretations of HIPAA.
  • Some SARTs are limited in their ability to share information or to dispatch advocates (automatically) to exam sites.
  • Some SARTs have found the HIPAA regulations have slowed the process of coordinating services (e.g., SART charts can no longer be routinely faxed to law enforcement) and that outreach to victims' friends and families has been much more difficult.
  • Detectives occasionally have difficulty obtaining information from hospitals and other health care providers during their investigations.
  • Forensic examiners occasionally have problems trying to access victims' medical reports from emergency departments.
  • Prosecutors have had problems getting medical information to aid in the prosecution of cases.
  • There are varying misinterpretations of HIPAA stipulations. This is particularly the case among tribal communities, in which health care and mental health facilities refuse to share information with tribal advocates but openly discuss cases in team meetings with individuals who do not have any link to the case in question.

SARTs should have conversations and create protocols to address this issue before a crime occurs in order to ease the process of getting information and evidence in a timely manner.