Grant M. Gallagher reports:
Increasing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have health officials warning of a public health crisis in the United States.
There is evidence that some pediatricians are reserved in talking to at-risk teenagers about STIs and testing. Additionally, when adolescents are diagnosed with STIs in the emergency room, research has found that more than 40% do not fill their antibiotic prescriptions.
Statistics like these support the notion that high schools are a critical site for STI treatment and prevention.
Given teenagers visit this setting daily, interventions targeted to improve STI control might be easier to implement in high schools than almost anywhere else. But, there are risks to privacy hiding in the differences between laws which govern schools and health departments.
Read more on Contagion. This piece does a terrific job of illustrating the complexity of the overlap — and nonoverlap — between HIPAA and FERPA and which might apply when. It is not surprising that so many school nurses will have questions as to their obligations and as to whether parents have the right to certain information.
After massive confusion was publicized in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre, the U.S. Education Department and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issues a guidance/clarification. But as the STI situation illustrates, there is still a great deal of confusion — and concern — about protecting privacy but also helping youth get necessary testing and treatment.
If we take the position that our priority is getting students important testing and treatment, then ensuring privacy and confidentiality seem key — even if it means weakening or excluding access to a minor’s records by parents.
Is it time to update HIPAA and FERPA? We’ve known for years that FERPA is not protective enough of student data privacy. Maybe it’s time to get started on a massive overhaul that will address data privacy, data security, and medically related or health-related information.