HIPPA Privacy Policy

 

PSYCHOTHERAPIST-PATIENT SERVICES AGREEMENT

Welcome to my practice.  This document (the Agreement) contains important information about my professional services and business policies.  It also contains summary information about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a NEW federal law that provides new privacy protections and new patient rights with regard to the use and disclosure of your Protected Health Information (PHI) used for the purpose of treatment, payment, and health care operations.  HIPAA requires that I provide you with a Notice of Privacy Practices (the Notice) for use and disclosure of PHI for treatment, payment and health care operations.  The Notice, which is attached to this Agreement, explains HIPAA and its application to your personal health information in greater detail.  Both the Services Agreement and the Privacy notice must be signed before you can receive psychological services at this office.  The law requires that I obtain your signature acknowledging that I have provided you with this information before the start of this session.  Although these documents are long and sometimes complex, it is very important that you read them carefully.  We can discuss any questions you have about the procedures.  When you sign this document, it will also represent an agreement between us.  You may revoke this Agreement in writing at any time.  That revocation will be binding on me unless I have taken action in reliance on it; if there are obligations imposed on me by your health insurer in order to process or substantiate claims made under your policy; or if you have not satisfied any financial obligations you have incurred.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES

Psychotherapy is not easily described in general statements.  It varies depending on the personalities of the psychologist and patient, and the particular problems you are experiencing.  There are many different methods I may use to deal with the problems that you hope to address.  Psychotherapy is not like a medical doctor visit.  Instead, it calls for a very active effort on your part.  In order for the therapy to be most successful, you will have to work on things we talk about both during our sessions and at home.

Psychotherapy can have benefits and risks.  Since therapy often involves discussing unpleasant aspects of your life, you may experience uncomfortable feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, loneliness, and helplessness.  On the other hand, psychotherapy has also been shown to have many benefits.  Therapy often leads to better relationships, solutions to specific problems, and significant reductions in feelings of distress.  But there are no guarantees of what you will experience. 

Our first few sessions will involve an evaluation of your needs.  By the end of the evaluation, I will be able to offer you some first impressions of what our work will include and a treatment plan to follow, if you decide to continue with therapy.  You should evaluate this information along with your own opinions of whether you feel comfortable working with me.  Therapy involves a large commitment of time, money, and energy, so you should be very careful about the therapist you select.  If you have questions about my procedures, we should discuss them whenever they arise.  If your doubts persist, I will be happy to help you set up a meeting with another mental health professional for a second opinion. 

MEETINGS

I normally conduct an evaluation that will last from 1 to 2 sessions.  During this time, we can both decide if I am the best person to provide the services you need in order to meet your treatment goals.  If psychotherapy is begun, I will usually schedule one 50-minute session (one appointment hour of 50 minutes duration) per week at a time we agree on, although some sessions may be longer or more frequent.  Once an appointment hour is scheduled, you will be expected to pay for it unless you provide 24 hours advance notice of cancellation [unless we both agree that you were unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control].  It is important to note that insurance companies do not provide reimbursement for cancelled sessions.

PROFESSIONAL FEES

My fee is $195 for the first session and $164 for each session thereafter.  In addition to weekly appointments, I charge this amount for other professional services you may need, though I will break down the hourly cost if I work for periods of less than one hour.  Other services include report writing, telephone conversations lasting longer than FIVE minutes, consulting with other professionals with your permission, preparation of records or treatment summaries, and the time spent performing any other service you may request of me.  If you become involved in legal proceedings that require my participation, you will be expected to pay for all of my professional time, including preparation and transportation costs, even if I am called to testify by another party.  Because of the difficulty of legal involvement, I charge $250 per hour for preparation and attendance at any legal proceeding.  This time is calculated from the time I leave my office to go to court on your behalf, the time I spend at the courthouse on your behalf and payment for the time it takes me to return to my office.  Please review your CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT FOR BILLING AND PAYMENTS for a list of other fees related to delinquent accounts.

CONTACTING ME

Due to my work schedule, I am often not immediately available by telephone.  While I am usually in my office between 9 AM and 8 PM, I probably will not answer the telephone when I am with a patient.  When I am unavailable, my telephone is answered by my secretary, or voice mail.  I make every effort to monitor incoming calls frequently.  I will make every effort to return your call on the same day you make it, with the exception of weekends and holidays.  If you are difficult to reach, please inform me of some times when you will be available.  [In emergencies, you can try me at my after hours number of (816) 405-2086.  If you are unable to reach me and feel that you can't wait for me to return your call, contact your family physician or Two Rivers Psychiatric Hospital and ask for the psychiatrist on call.  If I will be unavailable for an extended time, I will provide you with the name of a colleague to contact, if necessary. 

LIMITS ON CONFIDENTIALITY

The law protects the privacy of all communications between a patient and a psychologist.  In most situations, I can only release information about your treatment to others if you sign a written Authorization form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by HIPAA.  There are other situations that require only that you provide written, advance consent.  Your signature on this Agreement provides consent for those activities, as follows:

I may occasionally find it helpful to consult other health and mental health professionals about a case.  During a consultation, I make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of my patient.  The other professionals are also legally bound to keep the information confidential.  If you do not object, I will not tell you about these consultations unless I feel that it is important to our work together.  I will note all consultations in your Clinical Record.  

Disclosures required by health insurers or to collect overdue fees are discussed elsewhere in this Agreement. 

There are some situations where I am permitted or required to disclose information without either your consent or Authorization:

If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information concerning your diagnosis and treatment, such information is protected by the psychologist-patient privilege law.  I cannot provide any information without your (or your legal representative's) written authorization, or a court order.  If you are involved in or contemplating litigation, you should consult with your attorney to determine whether a court would be likely to order me to disclose information.

If a government agency is requesting the information for health oversight activities, I may be required to provide it for them.

If a patient files a complaint or lawsuit against me, I may disclose relevant information regarding that patient in order to defend myself.

If a patient files a worker's compensation claim, I must, upon appropriate request, provide a copy of the patient's record to the Labor and Industrial Commission or the Workers' Compensation Division of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, or the patient's employer.  

There are some situations in which I am legally obligated to take actions, which I believe are necessary to attempt to protect others from harm and I may have to reveal some information about a patient's treatment.  These situations are unusual in my practice. 

If I have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect or observe a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, the law requires that I file a report with the Missouri Division of Family Services.  Once such a report is filed, I may be required to provide additional information. 

If I have reasonable cause to suspect that an elderly or disabled adult presents a likelihood of suffering serious physical harm and is in need of protective services, the law requires that I file a report with Department of Social Services.  Once such a report is filed, I may be required to provide additional information.

If I believe that it is necessary to disclose information to protect against a clear and substantial risk of imminent serious harm being inflicted by the patient on him/herself or another person, I may be required to take protective action.  These actions may include, and/or initiating hospitalization and/or contacting the potential victim, and/or the police and/or the patient's family. 

If such a situation arises, I will make every effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action and I will limit my disclosure to what is necessary.

While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have now or in the future.

 

  • Nonpayment of your account will result in information about you being turned over to a collection agency.  Please understand that before you are turned over to a collection agency that this office will make every attempt to contact you via mail.  If mail is returned because of an incomplete or incorrect address, you account will immediately be turned over to a collection agency.  When you refuse to pay your account, the collection agency is authorized to contact your employer, your bank, and your relatives or friends for collection of your account.  Unpaid past due accounts will result in information being listed on your credit bureau report, which will adversely effect your ability to acquire loans in the future.  Charges are also made for appointments cancelled without twenty-four hours advance notice.  Extenuating circumstances are considered in a case by case basis.  You would not expect to visit your local grocery store or other retail store and march out the door while not paying for merchandize.  Neither should you excuse yourself from being a non-paying recipient of psychological services from Dr. Thomas without expecting consequences.

PROFESSIONAL RECORDS

You should be aware that, pursuant to HIPAA, I keep Protected Health Information about you.  Records include information about your reasons for seeking therapy, a description of the ways in which your problem impacts on your life, your diagnosis, the goals that we set for treatment, your progress towards those goals, your medical and social history, your treatment history, any past treatment records that I receive from other providers, reports of any professional consultations, your billing records, and any reports that have been sent to anyone, including reports to your insurance carrier.  Except in the unusual circumstance where disclosure is reasonably likely to endanger you and/or others or when another individual (other than another health care provider) is referenced and I believe disclosing that information puts the other person at risk of substantial harm, you may examine and/or receive a copy of your Clinical Record, if you request it in writing.  Because these are professional records, they can be misinterpreted and/or upsetting to untrained readers.  For this reason, I recommend that you initially review them in my presence, or have them forwarded to another mental health professional so you can discuss the contents.  In most circumstances, I am allowed to charge a copying fee of 37 cents per page (and for certain other expenses).  The exceptions to this policy are contained in the attached Notice Form.  If I refuse your request for access to your Clinical Records, you have a right of review, which I will discuss with you upon request.

PATIENT RIGHTS

HIPAA provides you with several new or expanded rights with regard to your Clinical Records and disclosures of protected health information.  These rights include requesting that I amend your record; requesting restrictions on what information from your Clinical Records is disclosed to others; requesting an accounting of most disclosures of protected health information that you have neither consented to nor authorized; determining the location to which protected information disclosures are sent; having any complaints you make about my policies and procedures recorded in your records; and the right to a paper copy of this Agreement, the attached Notice form, and my privacy policies and procedures.  I am happy to discuss any of these rights with you.

MINORS & PARENTS

Patients under 16 or17 years of age who are not emancipated and their parents should be aware that the law may allow parents to examine their child's treatment records.  Because privacy in psychotherapy is often crucial to successful progress, particularly with teenagers, it is sometimes my policy to request an agreement from parents that they consent to give up their access to their child's records.  If they agree, during treatment, I will provide them only with general information about the progress of the child's treatment, and his/her attendance at scheduled sessions.  I will also provide parents with a summary of their child's treatment when it is complete.  Any other communication will require the child's Authorization, unless I feel that the child is in danger or is a danger to someone else, in which case, I will notify the parents of my concern.  Before giving parents any information, I will discuss the matter with the child, if possible, and do my best to handle any objections he/she may have. 

INSURANCE REIMBURSEMENT

You should carefully read the section in your insurance coverage booklet that describes mental health services.  If you have questions about the coverage, call your plan administrator.  Of course, I will provide you with whatever information I can based on my experience and will be happy to help you in understanding the information you receive from your insurance company.  If it is necessary to clear confusion, I will be willing to call the company on your behalf. 

Due to the rising costs of health care, insurance benefits have increasingly become more complex.  It is sometimes difficult to determine exactly how much mental health coverage is available.  "Managed Health Care" plans such as HMOs and PPOs often require authorization before they provide reimbursement for mental health services.  These plans are often limited to short-term treatment approaches designed to work out specific problems that interfere with a person's usual level of functioning.  It may be necessary to seek approval for more therapy after a certain number of sessions.  While much can be accomplished in short-term therapy, some patients feel that they need more services after insurance benefits end.

You should also be aware that your contract with your health insurance company requires that I provide it with information relevant to the services that I provide to you.  I am required to provide a clinical diagnosis.  Sometimes I am required to provide additional clinical information such as treatment plans or summaries, or copies of your entire Clinical Record.  In such situations, I will make every effort to release only the minimum information about you that is necessary for the purpose requested.  This information will become part of the insurance company files and will probably be stored in a computer.  Though all insurance companies claim to keep such information confidential, I have no control over what they do with it once it is in their hands.  In some cases, they may share the information with a national medical information databank.  I will provide you with a copy of any report I submit, if you request it.  By signing this Agreement, you agree that I can provide requested information to your carrier. 

Once we have all of the information about your insurance coverage, we will discuss what we can expect to accomplish with the benefits that are available and what will happen if they run out before you feel ready to end your sessions.  It is important to remember that you always have the right to pay for my services yourself to avoid the problems described above. 

Website Privacy Statement

For each visitor to our Web page, our Web server automatically recognizes no information regarding the domain or e-mail address.  We collect the e-mail address of those who communicate with us via e-mail, aggregate information on what pages consumers access or visit, user specific information on what pages consumers access or visit.

The information we collect is used for internal review and is then discarded, used to improve the content of our Web page, used to customize the content and/or layout of our page for the individual consumer.

Website Terms of Use Statement

You understand and agree that the owners of this site shall not be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential or exemplary damages, including but not limited to, emotional damages, damages for loss of profits, data or other intangible losses (even if the owners and users of this site have been advised of the possibility of such damages), resulting from the use or the inability to use the product(s) and or service(s) or any misuse of the product(s) and or service(s) in a manner not in accordance with their intended use.

 

Copyright © 2008 Rick D. Thomas Ph.D., LLC

All Rights Reserved.
contact@rickdthomasphd.com
Click here for a map to my practice.