Use & Disclosure of Your Information

The following information describes how we are permitted, or required by law, to use and disclose your health information.  Not every use or disclosure in a category will be listed.  

Treatment:  We may use or disclose your health information to a physician or other health care provider in order to provide care and treatment to you.  For example, a physician treating you for a broken leg may need to know if you have diabetes because diabetes may slow the healing process.  Different departments at Houston Methodist also may share information about you in order to coordinate the different services you receive, such as lab work, X-rays, and prescriptions.  We also may disclose health information about you to those who may be involved in your health care outside of Houston Methodist, such as physicians and others who provide you with follow-up care and medical equipment or product suppliers.  We may contact you to coordinate care after discharge, provide appointment reminders and to provide you with information about health-related benefits and services at Houston Methodist, or treatment alternatives that may be of interest to you.

Payment:  We may use or disclose your health information to obtain payment for services we provide to you.  We may disclose your health information to another health care provider or entity.  For example, Houston Methodist may need to provide your health plan with information about surgery you received so your health plan will pay Houston Methodist or reimburse you for the surgery.  Houston Methodist also will tell your health plan about a treatment you are going to receive to obtain the health plan’s prior approval for this treatment or to determine whether your plan will cover the treatment.

Health Care Operations:  We may use or disclose health information about you to support the programs and activities of Houston Methodist such as quality and service improvement; health care delivery review; staff performance evaluation; competence or qualification review of health care professionals; education and training of physicians and other health care providers; and business planning and development, business management and general administrative activities.  We use this information to continuously improve the quality of care for all patients we serve. For example, we may combine health information about many patients to evaluate the need for new services or treatments. We may disclose information for educational purposes to doctors, nurses, and other students. And we may combine health information we have with that of other facilities to see where we can make improvements. 
Additionally, we may share your health information with other health care providers and payors for certain of their business operations if the information is related to a relationship the provider or payor currently has or previously had with you, and if the provider or payor is required by federal law to  protect the privacy of your health information. 

Houston Methodist Care Everywhere Health Information Exchange (HIE):
We may make your health information available electronically to other care providers such as hospitals, laboratories, and physicians involved in your care who request your health information.  The purpose of this information exchange is to support the delivery of safer, better coordinated patient care.  Participation in the information exchange is voluntary. If you do not want your Houston Methodist health information to be accessible electronically to health care providers through Houston Methodist Care Everywhere, you may submit a signed opt-out (non-participation) form, available from your registration representative or  If you decide not to participate, health care providers will not be able to access your health information electronically through Houston Methodist Care Everywhere.

Electronic Disclosures:   Houston Methodist creates, receives, maintains, and in some instances, discloses your protected health information in an electronic format. We will obtain your written authorization prior to electronically disclosing your protected health information for any reason other than treatment, payment, health care operations, or as otherwise authorized or required by law.

Authorization for Other Disclosures:  We will not use or disclose your health information, except as described in this document, unless you authorize us, in writing, to do so.  You may give us written authorization to disclose your medical information to anyone for any purpose.  Houston Methodist may use electronic or other means to satisfy your request for the authorized disclosure.  You can revoke an authorization at any time, in writing.  If you revoke an authorization, we will no longer use or disclose your health information for the purpose covered by the authorization.  However, we are unable to take back any uses or disclosures already made with your authorization.  Specific examples of uses or disclosures requiring authorization include:  use of psychotherapy notes, marketing activities, the sale of your health information, and most uses and disclosures for which we are compensated.  

Hospital Directory:  Unless you instruct otherwise, we may disclose your name, general condition, and location in the hospital to your friends, family, and others who ask for you by name.  Unless you instruct otherwise, we will provide your name, location in the hospital, and religious affiliation to clergy members of your faith or tradition upon their request.

Family and Friends:  We may use or disclose information to notify or assist in notifying a family member, personal representative, or other person responsible for your care, of your location and general condition.  We will also disclose health information to a family member, other relative, close personal friend, or any other person you identify, if the information is relevant to that person’s involvement with your care or payment for your care.  

Fundraising:  We may use or disclose health information about you to contact you in an effort to raise money for our organization and its operations.  We may disclose this information to The Methodist Hospital Foundation to assist us in our fundraising activities.  Only demographic information such as your name, date of birth, address, phone number and other contact information, and information related to the department of your service, your treating physician, outcome information, health insurance status, and the dates you received treatment or services at Houston Methodist would be released.  You have the right to opt out of fundraising communications at any time by calling 713.790.3333 and your request must be honored.  Any such communication will have clear and conspicuous instructions on how to opt out of future fundraising communications.  

Future Communications:
 We may use or disclose your information to communicate with you via newsletters, mailings or other means regarding treatment options, health related information, disease-management programs, wellness programs, or other community based initiatives or activities in which Houston Methodist participates.  If we receive any financial compensation for such communications (with limited permitted exceptions), we will obtain your authorization prior to sending the communication and your authorization can be revoked at any time.  

Public Health and Safety:  We may use or disclose health information, as authorized or required by local, state or federal law, for the following purposes deemed to be in the public interest or benefit:
  • To report certain diseases and wounds, births and deaths, and suspected cases of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence;
  • To help identify, locate, or report criminal suspects, crime victims, missing persons, suspicious deaths, or criminal conduct on Houston Methodist’s premises;
  • To respond to a court order, subpoena, or other judicial process;
  • To assist federal disaster relief efforts;
  • To enable product recalls, repairs, or replacements;
  • To respond to an audit, inspection, or investigation by a health-related government agency;
  • To assist in federal intelligence, counterintelligence, and national security issues; 
  • To facilitate organ and tissue donations;
  • To assist coroners, medical examiners, and funeral directors;
  • To respond to a request from a jail or prison regarding an inmate’s health or medical treatment;
  • To respond to a request from your military command authority (if you are a member or veteran of the armed forces);
  • To provide information to a workers’ compensation program. 

Business Associates:  There are some services provided at Houston Methodist through contracts with business associates.  When these services are contracted, we will disclose your health information to the business associate so they can perform the job we have asked them to do.  However, business associates are required by federal law to appropriately safeguard your information.

Research:  We will disclose information to researchers after approval by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) in preparation for a research study, to recruit research subjects, or for a research study.  The IRB reviews research proposals and establishes protocols to protect your safety and the privacy of your health information. 

Special Privacy Protections for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Information:
Alcohol and drug abuse information has special privacy protections.  We will not disclose any information identifying an individual as being a patient or provide any health information relating to the patient’s substance abuse treatment unless the patient consents in writing; a court order requires disclosure of the information; medical personnel need the information to meet a medical emergency; qualified personnel use the information for the purpose of conducting scientific research, management audits, financial audits, or program evaluation; or it is necessary to report a crime or a threat to commit a crime, or to report abuse or neglect as required by law.