Expand All
Collapse All


May local health department employees obtain access to medical records, if they are necessary for an investigation of a disease report or an outbreak?

Yes. Physicians, persons in charge of medical facilities, and persons in charge of laboratories must make confidential medical records available to public health officials if the public health official determines the records pertain to any of the following:

  • Diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a person who is infected, exposed, or suspected of being infected or exposed to a communicable disease or condition, or
  • Investigation of a known or suspected outbreak of a communicable disease or condition, or
  • A report, case, or outbreak of an illness, condition, or health hazard that may have been caused by terrorism using nuclear, chemical, or biological agents.

G.S. 130A-144(b); 130A-476(c). These laws authorize either the state health director or a local health director to examine, review, and obtain a copy of such records upon request and presentation of proper identification. The state health director or local health director may delegate this authority to another public health employee. G.S. 130A-6.

A person who provides access to records or information pursuant to these laws is immune from civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be imposed under state law. G.S. 130A-144(c); 130A-476(d).

Does HIPAA prohibit a health care provider or a person in charge of a health care facility or laboratory from providing access to records pursuant to these laws?

No. The HIPAA privacy rule specifically permits covered entities to disclose protected health information pursuant to laws that require or authorize disclosure to public health authorities for the purpose of controlling disease. 45 C.F.R. 164.512(a) and (b).

Topics - Local and State Government