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Family Members and Friends

The Privacy Rule does not require a health care provider or health plan to share information with your family or friends, unless they are your personal representatives.  The law does permit providers and plans to share information with them in certain circumstances.

A health care provider or health plan may share relevant information with family members or friends involved in your health care or payment for your health care, if you tell the provider or plan that it can do so, or if you do not object to sharing of the information.  

  • For example, if you do not object, your doctor could talk with the friend who goes with you to the hospital or with a family member who pays your medical bill. 
Family visiting a patient in the hospital

A provider or plan may also share relevant information with these persons if, using its professional judgment, it believes that you do not object. 

  • For example, if you send your friend to pick up your prescription for you, the pharmacist can assume that you do not object to their being given the medication.  
  • When you are not there or when you are injured and cannot give your permission, a provider may share information with these persons when it decides that doing so would be in your best interest. 

Please see A Patient's Guide: When Health Care Providers May Communicate About You with Your Family, Friends, or Others Involved In Your Care.

For further information on this topic, please refer to 45 C.F.R. §§ 164.502(g) and 164.510(b), and OCR’s Frequently Asked Questions.