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Montana Medical Records Laws

Doctors, nurses, and health care providers know a lot about their patients. Besides the basics like your height, weight, and address, medical records can contain sensitive information about your health status, medical conditions, and past. Disclosure of this information can be embarrassing and lead to potential problems.

So when can your information, or the information of a loved one, be disclosed to someone else? Here’s a brief summary of Montana medical records laws.

What Montana's Medical Records Laws Cover

Montana generally prohibits health care providers from disclosing a patient’s health care information. There are important exceptions, however.

Patients can authorize disclosure of health care information. This authorization must be in writing, dated, and signed and must identify the information to be disclosed and to whom it will be sent. Disclosure authorizations are only valid for six months (if no expiration date is provided) or thirty months (if an expiration date is provided). Disclosure is not absolute though. Doctors and health care providers can refuse to disclose a patient’s information in some circumstances related to patient protection.

Montana also permits health care providers to disclose patient medical records without authorization in some circumstances. Access can be granted to health care providers, insurers, a patient’s prior health care providers, a patient’s immediate family members, for research purposes, to law enforcement, and to anyone when disclosure will minimize a danger to their health or safety. There are restrictions in place depending on the reason for disclosure and intended recipient, and patients may instruct health care providers not to release information in some situations. Montana law also prohibits compelling people to disclose an HIV test or test result, although doctors must report patients suspected of having sexually transmitted diseases when their (sexual) conduct risks infecting other people.

These laws have teeth. It’s a misdemeanor for any person to views someone’s medical record without authorization by bribery, theft, misrepresentation of identity, or entitlement. Montana’s Department of Justice can bring civil enforcement actions and aggrieved patients can file a lawsuit as well. Montana law allows patients to recover for financial loss and courts can award attorney fees to successful plaintiffs.

Who Has Access to Records?

Patients, doctors, and health care providers.

Patients may authorize disclosure (50-16-526).

Health care providers may disclose without patient authorization in limited circumstances (50-16-529, 50-16-530).

What Privileges Apply to Medical Records? Doctor-patient (26-1-805); psychologist-patient (26-1-807).
Mandatory Reporting Requirements Doctors must report patients with sexually transmitted diseases whose behavior risks infecting others (50-18-106).
Who Can Sue? Attorney general or county attorney (50-16-552); Individual patients (50-16-553).
What Remedies are Available? Patients can receive damages for financial losses. Courts can award attorney fees to successful plaintiffs (50-16-553).

Federal Patient Privacy Protections

Montana patients are also protected by federal law. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires doctors, nurses, and health care providers to keep patient information confidential. Exceptions exist for patients requiring emergency care, as required by law, and government reporting requirements such as birth and death certificates.

Montana Medical Records Laws: Related Resources

Medical privacy is a big deal. If you or someone you know has had medical records improperly disclosed, consider contacting a Montana attorney. An attorney can review your case and offer advice on legal options.

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