Consent forms play an extremely important role in ensuring that your practice stays compliant with HIPAA regulations. You have probably seen these yourself when visiting a doctor or dentist’s office. Consent forms are used to obtain a patient’s authorization for the various activities that are related to the use, disclosure, and collection of their protected health information (PHI).
Patients must provide their written authorization before healthcare providers, including dentists, use and disclose their PHI for purposes beyond treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. Consent forms serve as a means to document this authorization. For example, if a dental practice wants to share a patient’s PHI with a third-party specialist or laboratory, specific authorization must be obtained through a signed consent form.
Patients have the right to revoke their consent for the use and disclosure of their PHI at any time. Consent forms should clearly inform patients of this right, and provide instructions on how they may revoke their consent if the need or desire ever arises. Once a patient revokes consent, the dental practice must immediately cease using or disclosing the patient’s information, except to the extent that action has already been taken in the context of the original consent.
Dental practices must retain copies of signed consent forms in their records for a specified period, typically for six years. These forms serve as evidence of a patient’s consent and authorization, providing protection to the dental practice in case of any future disputes or audits. You never know when a possible incident may arise: it’s best to be cautious, and to keep as much documentation as possible, especially when it comes to something as complex and serious as HIPAA.