May mental health practitioners or other specialists provide therapy to patients in a group setting where other patients and family members are present?
Yes. Disclosures of protected health information in a group therapy setting are treatment disclosures and, thus, may be made without an individual’s authorization. Furthermore, the HIPAA Privacy Rule generally permits a covered entity to disclose protected health information to a family member or other person involved in the individual’s care. Where the individual is present during the disclosure, the covered entity may disclose protected health information if it is reasonable to infer from the circumstances that the individual does not object to the disclosure. Absent countervailing circumstances, the individual’s agreement to participate in group therapy or family discussions is a good basis for inferring the individual’s agreement.