Do not ignore it.
Some response is necessary by the date specified. A patient's record can be released if you have written authorization from that patient. The laws governing hospitals provide some guidance for medical group practices and individual providers in the office setting. For example, under Massachusetts law, a hospital or clinic served with a subpoena for medical records may release those records if:
- the subpoena is for the records of a party named in the proceeding, as shown by the case caption on the subpoena, and
- the records do not contain otherwise privileged information.
Both federal and state restrictions may come into play if the record contains "sensitive information" such as that concerning sexually transmitted disease; drug or alcohol abuse; and communication between the patient and psychotherapists, psychologists, and social workers. This list is not exhaustive and, in general, protection should be provided to any sensitive information that may cause a patient embarrassment or serious loss, such as a job or child custody. If the patient authorizes the release of the sensitive information, comply with the subpoena. Without such authorization, redact (take out) the protected information prior to releasing the record, and object to release of omitted portions, citing the legal basis for withholding the information.
If you do not have the patient's authorization, and conditions 1 and 2 (above) are not met, then object to its release to the party issuing the subpoena. That party then has the option of seeking a court order to obtain the records. When in doubt, call your risk manager or legal counsel for advice.