Student Health and Counseling Records and Patient Privacy
The Student Health Center and the Counseling Center maintain patient records for seven years after a student graduates from Washington and Lee. After seven years health records are destroyed. If you need information from your health record that is less than seven years old you may request it by completing the Consent to Release Confidential Health Care Information.
Each time a student visits the Student Health Center or the Counseling Center and sees a clinician (nurse, physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or counselor) a record is made of the visit. The health record contains information such as symptoms, examinations, test results, medications, allergies and the plan for care. There are state and federal laws that protect the confidentiality of personal information that is contained in the health record. The privacy and security provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") do not cover student health records maintained and used by W&L (see W&L's Designation of Hybrid Entity Status under HIPAA). The primary laws applicable to W&L's Student Health Center and Counseling Center are the Virginia law on patient health records privacy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). We will not release such information without authorization, except in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.
We will provide another physician or healthcare provider with a copy of information from a medical record to assist him or her in treating a student. This includes University Counseling staff, with whom the Student Health Center Physician and Physician Assistant meet weekly to coordinate care of students.
Student Health and Counseling secretarial and billing staff may access a student health record to file components of the chart and to assist students with insurance or other records-related questions. They may also access a student health record to provide necessary information to the student's health insurance carrier in connection with filing and processing claims for payment. When you first visit the Student Health Center or the Counseling Center, you will be asked to sign an authorization for the release of only those items of information from your health record necessary for this purpose. Student Health and Counseling staff may also call to remind a student about an appointment, to follow up for a visit, or to discuss diagnostic test results.
Student employees assist in the Student Health Center with administrative functions, but do not have access to health records. They may pull and file charts for visits, but do not open them. Student employees do not answer the phone or schedule appointments. Staff members do not discuss personal health information in the presence of student employees. At the time of their employment, all employees are informed of this policy, and sign a statement acknowledging that they understand and will comply with it.
We do not release information about a student's health to parents, professors, or the University administration without permission, except in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. A rare exception occurs when parents or the administration might be notified in emergency/life-threatening situations or when the student cannot give permission due to the severity of illness/injury. We will release information to parents about the nature of charges from the Student Health Center to a student's University account or health insurer only with the student's permission.
It is the student's responsibility to contact professors about classes or work missed due to illness. We will provide a statement about illness if needed, but this is usually not necessary when the student remains in contact with his or her professors. Short term academic adjustments for health reasons (such as postponing tests, exams, due dates for projects or writing assignments, or other indicated adjustments) must be recommended by Student Health or Counseling and approved by the designated Associate Dean of the College for undergraduates, or the Assistant Law Dean for Student Affairs for law students.
We may also disclose health information as required by law, for example (list is illustrative, not exhaustive):
- To public health authorities charged with disease prevention
- To law enforcement officials
- To courts and/or attorneys in accordance with a valid subpoena (we will attempt to contact you in advance)
- To national Security and Intelligence Agencies
- To avoid a serious threat to the health and safety of a person or the public
Special Notes about Confidentiality of University Counseling Records
- With certain very limited exceptions, the fact that you come to counseling and the content of your therapy sessions are kept in the strictest of confidence. All University Counseling records are kept locked and separate from Student Health Center or other student records. No one, including the student's parents or Washington and Lee administration or faculty, can be informed about a student's counseling without the consent and direction from a student.
- One exception to confidentiality is when a student might present an imminent risk of harm to him or herself or others. The primary duty of a Counselor in such situations is to protect the student or others who might be in danger, and sometimes this requires careful disclosure of information essential to prevent harm from occurring. The other exception occurs if a student discloses that a child or elderly person has been abused or neglected, which the law mandates must be reported.
- There are state and federal laws that protect the confidentiality of personal information that is contained in your counseling records. The privacy and security provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") do not cover student counseling records maintained by W&L (see W&L's Designation of Hybrid Entity Status under HIPAA). The primary laws applicable to W&L's University Counseling Center are the Virginia law on patient health records privacy and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. We will not release such information without your consent and direction, except in accordance with the very limited exceptions provided under applicable laws and regulations.