Medical Board Clarifies Physician's Duty to Report Criminal Activity

In the midst of Ohio’s ongoing prescription drug abuse epidemic, many physicians have sought clarification on their duty to report suspected “doctor shoppers” and the protections provided to patients under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The Medical Board has reviewed the Ohio Revised Code, Ohio Administrative Code, HIPAA and court decisions on this topic and issued a statement to provide guidance to physicians as they encounter these situations.

The Board’s analysis clarifies that “the physician-patient privilege applies only to communications that have a relationship to an examination, diagnosis or treatment of the patient’s condition. A patient using false statements or other deception to obtain narcotics from a physician is engaged in fraudulent and criminal misconduct. If the physician knows that the patient has engaged in felonious conduct and no privilege exists, the physician is required to report the matter to law enforcement.”

In situations where a physician becomes aware of a patient’s illegal drug use through a toxicology screen during the course of treatment, the information is protected under the physician-patient privilege and the physician should use their clinical judgment in continuing to treat that patient. Click to review the Board’s entire statement.

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