While confidentiality is crucial with the health care personnel-patient relationship, there are circumstances under which the obligation to maintain confidentiality must give way to a duty to protect other persons from harm. In this sense, reporting the person driving with a medical impairment precluding their ability to drive safely is similar to reporting gunshot wounds, child abuse, venereal disease and other reportable occurrences.
This reporting requirement is in harmony with the American Medical Association's statement of ethics, which contains the following provision:
A physician may not reveal the confidences entrusted to him in the course of medical attendance, or the deficiencies he may observe in the character of patients, unless he is required to do so by law or unless it becomes necessary in order to protect the welfare of the individual or of the community.
Reports submitted to PennDOT are confidential and used solely to determine the qualification of the individual to safely operate a motor vehicle and for taking any necessary action by PennDOT. PennDOT will NOT release information regarding the source or content of a report, even to the patient. However, individuals have a right to appeal actions taken by the Department in court. If this occurs, the medical information will be made available to the court to support the Department's action.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not restrict health care personnel from disclosing a patient's protected health information when disclosure to a state agency is required by law. Therefore, HIPAA regulations DO NOT apply to health care personnel reporting to PennDOT, and no individual consent to release the health information is needed to report.