NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES

At George Regional Health System, we believe that your health information is personal. We keep records of the care and services you receive at our facilities. We are committed to keeping your health information private, and we are also required by law to respect your confidentiality. This Notice describes the privacy practices of George Regional Health System and its affiliated facilities (GRHS). This Notice applies to all of the health records that identify you and the care you receive at GRHS facilities. We are legally required to give you this Notice and to follow the terms of the Notice that is currently in effect.

GEORGE REGIONAL HEALTH SYSTEM AFFILIATED FACILITIES:

All of our hospitals, employed physicians, doctor offices, entities, facilities, other services and affiliated facilities follow the terms of this Notice. Any or all of these locations may share your health information with each other for reasons of treatment, payment and health care operations as discussed below. For example: You may be sent from Community Medical Center to be admitted to George Regional Hospital and later discharged and receive physical therapy from Southeast Rehabilitation & Wellness Center. All of these entities will share your health information in order to provide you with effective, efficient and quality care.

HOW GEORGE REGIONAL MAY USE AND DISCLOSE YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION:

When you become a patient of GRHS, we will use your health information within GRHS and disclose your health information outside GRHS for the reasons described in this Notice. Each category of uses and disclosures will be explained, but not every use and disclosure in each category will be listed. However, every permissible use or disclosure will fall under one of the following categories. We may use or disclose your protected health information (PHI) in the following situations without your consent or authorization. The following categories describe some of the ways that we will use your health information.

Treatment

We use your health information to provide you with healthcare services. We may disclose your health information to doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, medical or nursing students, or other persons at GRHS who need that information to take care of you. For example, a doctor treating you for a broken leg may need to ask another doctor if you have diabetes because diabetes may slow the leg’s healing process. This may involve talking to doctors and other not employed by us. We also may disclose your health information to people outside GRHS who may be involved in your healthcare, such as treating doctors, home care providers, pharmacies, drug or medical device experts and family members. In order to facilitate your treatment by non-GRHS healthcare providers, we may furnish your health and other medical information to health information organizations or health information exchanges acting on behalf of GRHS or non-GRHS healthcare providers. We may also release information to organizations that manage organ, tissue, and eye donation and transplantation.

Payment

We may use and disclose your health information so that the health care you receive may be billed and paid for by you, your insurance company or another third party. We may tell your health plan about a surgery you are going to receive or have already received. This would be to obtain prior payment approval, co-pays, deductibles and/or final payment for the service rendered.

Healthcare Operations

We may use your health information and disclose it outside GRHS for our healthcare operations. These uses and disclosures help us operate GRHS to maintain and improve patient care. For example, we may use your health information to review the care you received and to evaluate the performance of our staff in caring for you; to include medical and nursing students. In addition, we may use a sign-in sheet at the registration desk or call you by name in the waiting room. We also may combine health information about many patients to identify new services to offer, what services are not needed, newsletters, marketing, fundraising, and/or whether certain therapies are effective. We may contact you about appointments or other matters via mail, telephone or email. When third parties or “business associates” are used (e.g., billing, transcription services, software vendors, etc.) your PHI might be shared. Whenever an arrangement between our office and a business associate involves the use or disclosure of your PHI, we will obtain a written contract that contains terms that will protect the privacy of your PHI.

It is important to note that when GRHS is required by law to submit PHI we will comply with these laws. For example, federal, state, or local law, or by the court process; reporting for public health reasons such as birth, deaths, abuse or neglect and/or to help control the spread of disease; coroners, funeral directors and organ donation; research; military activity, national security; and workers’ compensation; and/or reactions to medications or problems with medical products. We may also disclose health information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law, such as for audits, investigations, inspections and licensure. However, other uses and disclosures of PHI not required by law will be made only with the individual’s written authorization and the individual may revoke such authorization.

Patient Information Directories

Our hospitals include limited information about you in their patient directories, such as your name and possibly your location in the hospital and general condition (for example: good, fair, serious, critical or undetermined). We usually give this information to people who ask for you by name. We also may include your religious affiliation in the directories and give this limited information to clergy from the community. We do not release this information if you are being treated on a psychiatric or substance abuse unit. Releasing directory information about you enables your family and others (such as friends, community-based clergy and delivery persons) to visit you in the hospital and generally know how you are doing. We will not release any of this information to these persons if you tell the hospital’s admitting department that you want to opt out.

AUTHORIZATIONS FOR OTHER USES AND DISCLOSURES:

As described above, we will use your health information and disclose it outside GRHS for treatment, payment, healthcare operations and when permitted or required by law. We will not use or disclose your health information for other reasons without your written authorization. For example, you may want us to release medical information to your employer or to your child’s school. These kinds of uses and disclosures of your health information will be made only with your written authorization. You may revoke the authorization, in writing, at any time, but we cannot take back any uses or disclosures of your health information already made with your authorization.

Your Rights Regarding Health Information

The following is a statement of your rights with respect to your PHI and a brief description of how you may exercise these rights. Should you wish to exercise your right to any of the items below you must address your request to the Privacy Official of the GRHS hospital or facility that maintains the records or to the Privacy Office, George Regional Health System P.O. Box 607 Lucedale, MS 39452. A full listing is at the bottom of this document. We will respond to you within 60 days.

Right to Accounting

You may request an accounting, which is a listing of the entities or persons (other than yourself) to whom GRHS has disclosed your health information without your written authorization. The accounting would not include disclosure for treatment, payment, healthcare operations and certain other disclosures exempted by law. We will not list disclosures made earlier than 6 years before your request. To request an accounting of disclosures, you must submit a written request specifying the records you wish to have an accounting of disclosures performed and identify the GHRS facility that maintains those records. We will give you the first listing within any 12 month period free; however, you may be charged a fee for the administrative costs of retrieving, copying, mailing and any other activities associated with any additional requests for accounting. You will be notified of the costs involved and will have the option to withdraw your request at that time, before any costs are incurred.

Right to Request Amendment

If you feel that health information we have about you is incorrect or incomplete, you have the right to ask us to amend your medical records. Your request for an amendment must be in writing, signed and dated. It must specify the records you wish to amend, identify the GHRS facility that maintains those records, and give the reason for your request. We may deny your request; if we do, we will tell you why and explain your options.

Right to Inspect and Obtain a Copy

This means you may inspect and obtain a copy of PHI about you that is contained in a designated record set for as long as we maintain the PHI. A “designated record set” contains medical and billing records and any other records that your physician and the practice used for making decisions about you. Under Federal Law, however, this generally does not apply to the following: psychotherapy notes and information gathered for a legal proceeding. Your request to inspect or obtain a copy of the records must be submitted in writing, signed and dated, to the Medical Record Department of the GRHS hospital or facility that maintains the records. (Requests for billing records should be sent to the corresponding billing department.) We may charge a fee for processing your request.

Right to Request Restrictions

You have a right to request that GRHS restrict the use or disclosure of any part of your PHI for the purposes of treatment, payment or health care operations. You may also request that your PHI be disclosed to someone who is involved in your care or the payment for your care, like a family member or friend. You must decide whether to grant disclosure to all family and friends or none. The request must state the specific restriction requested. GRHS is not required to agree to a restriction that you may request. If we do agree, we will comply with your request unless the information is needed to provide you with emergency treatment.

Right to Request Confidential Communications

You have the right to request to receive confidential communications from GRHS by alternative means or at an alternative location. For example, you may wish to be contacted only at work or by mail. We will accommodate reasonable requests. We may also condition this accommodation by basking you for information as to how payment will be handled or specification of an alternative address or other method of contact. We will not request an explanation from you as to the basis for the request.

We may use and disclose your PHI in the following instances. You will be granted the opportunity to agree or object to the use or disclosure of all or part of your PHI. If you are not present or able to agree or object to the use or disclosure of the PHI then in our best professional judgment, GRHS may determine whether the disclosure is in your best interest. In this case, only the minimum necessary PHI relevant to your healthcare will be disclosed. For example, Communication Barriers-We may use and disclose your PHI if we attempt to obtain consent from you but are unable due to substantial communication barriers and we determine, using our professional judgment, that you intend to consent. Emergencies-We may use or disclose your PHI in an emergency treatment situation. If this happens, GRHS staff shall attempt to obtain your consent as soon as reasonably practicable after the delivery of treatment. If your physician or any GRHS staff member is required by law to treat you and has attempted to obtain your consent but is unable to obtain your consent, he or she may still use or disclose your PHI to treat you. Others Involved in Your Health Care-Unless you object, we may disclose to a member of your family, a relative, a close friend, significant other or any other person you identify, your PHI that directly relates to that person’s involvement in your healthcare. If you are unable to agree or object to such a disclosure, we may disclose such information as necessary if we determine that it is in your best interest based on our professional judgment. We may use or disclose protected health information to notify or assist you in notifying a family member, personal representative or any other person that is responsible for your care of your location, general condition or death. Finally, we may use or disclose your PHI to an authorized public or private entity to assist in disaster relief efforts and to coordinate uses and disclosures to family or other individuals involved in your healthcare.

CHANGES TO THIS NOTICE:

We reserve the right to change the terms of our notice at any time. Any revisions of the notice will be effective for all PHI that we maintain at that time. To receive a copy of the revised notice, you may contact our Privacy Officer and request that a revised copy be sent to you in the mail. You may also obtain a copy in the Admissions Office at the time of your next appointment.

Right to a Paper Copy of this Notice

You have the right to obtain a copy of this Notice of Privacy Practices upon request. To receive a copy of this Notice, or any future revisions of the Notice, you may contact our Privacy Officer and request that a revised copy be sent to you in the mail. You may also obtain a copy in the Admissions Office at the time of your next appointment.

COMPLAINTS

If you believe your privacy rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with GRHS or with the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To file a complaint with GRHS, you may call our Privacy Officer at 601-947-9146 or by email at privacy@georgeregional.com You will not be penalized for filing a complaint.

QUESTIONS

If you have any questions about this Notice, please contact our Privacy Officer, Christy Roberts, at 601-947-9146 or by email at privacy@georgeregional.com.