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College of Charleston Student Health Services Privacy Notice

Confidentiality of Health Records Under the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) and the South Carolina Physicians’ Patient Records Act

Student Health Services (SHS) is committed to keeping your health information protected and confidential. This Notice explains the way we protect the privacy of your health information, including complying with FERPA, South Carolina privacy laws and College of Charleston (College) policies regarding the confidentiality of information.

What privacy laws apply to my medical records at SHS?

While not a covered entity under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), SHS complies with FERPA and the South Carolina Physicians’ Patient Records Act to protect your confidential health information.  FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of students’ “Education Records,” broadly defined as records maintained at the College that are directly related to a student. In addition, the Physicians’ Patient Records Act is a state law that protects medical records, including “Treatment Records” as they are defined by FERPA, from release without your express written consent.

How do these privacy protections apply to my records at Student Health Services?

Under FERPA, your SHS health records are either “Treatment Records” or “Education Records” (SHS Records). Treatment Records are made or maintained by a health care professional; used only for your treatment; and available only to treatment providers in connection with your treatment, unless you provide written consent. Treatment Records have the privacy protection of the Physicians’ Patient Records Act until they are shared (including with you), at which point they become Education Records protected by FERPA.

What are my rights under the South Carolina Physicians’ Patient Records Act?

You have a right to receive a copy of your Treatment Records, or have them transferred to another physician, at your request and with your written authorization to do so. You may receive either a printed or electronic copy, unless the record is not stored in an electronic format or if SHS cannot produce an electronic copy without incurring additional cost. SHS may furnish a summary or portion of the record, if the physician reasonably believes the information would cause harm to the patient's emotional or physical well-being, the emotional or physical well-being of another person who gave information about the patient to the physician, or where release of the information is otherwise prohibited by law. You also have the right to give your express written consent prior to SHS releasing your Treatment Records.

What are my rights under FERPA?

The College issues an Annual Notification of FERPA Rights for Students, located at http://registrar.cofc.edu/ferpa/index.php, which includes a detailed explanation of rights and the exceptions that allow the College to disclose Educational Records without consent. In general, students have the right to: (1) inspect and review their Education Records within 45 days of the day the College receives a request for access to those records; (2) request an amendment to their Education Records; (3) provide written consent before the College discloses personally identifiable information from the student's Education Records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without student consent; and (4) file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office.

Other healthcare providers have told me that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies to my health records.  Why doesn't HIPAA apply here?

HIPAA excludes FERPA Education Records and Treatment Records from coverage under the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules.  Instead of HIPAA, SHS must follow FERPA, state law and College policy requirements to protect the privacy of a student’s medical records.

How are my SHS Records used? 

We use your SHS Records to provide you with healthcare services. While we may disclose your Treatment Records to other healthcare providers who also are treating you, we will ask you to sign a written consent before we do. In emergency situations (e.g., if you are unconscious) and where we believe it’s in your best interest, we may provide this information to other providers to treat you without your written consent.  At your request, we will provide your Treatment Records to an outside physician or appropriate professional. In most cases, you also will need to sign a written consent before we disclose your Education Records, but FERPA provides circumstances where your Education Records may be disclosed without your prior written consent.

Can SHS share my records with people other than healthcare providers without my consent?

In general, you will need to sign a written consent before we disclose your SHS Records to anyone for purposes other than treatment.  Under FERPA, however, we may disclose your SHS records without your written consent: (a) to comply with a judicial order or lawful subpoena; (b) in connection with a legal proceeding involving the College and you or your parents; and (c) in connection with a health or safety emergency where necessary to protect the health and safety of you or others. The FERPA regulations also list situations in which we may disclose your SHS records without your prior written consent.

Can I make a request to see my SHS records?

Yes, you may make a written request to see your SHS records.  We may provide you with copies and/or arrange for a healthcare provider to be with you when you review them to explain the records and answer questions.  Note that when we share your records with you, they become Education Records, which means that they are subject to all FERPA requirements.

Who should I contact with questions about the privacy protections for my SHS records?

You may direct your questions to the Director of Student Health Services at healthservices@cofc.edu.

July 2019