38 CFR 17.509 - Authorized disclosure: Non-Department of Veterans Affairs requests.
(a) Requests for confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents from organizations or individuals outside VA must be made to the Department and must specify the nature and content of the information requested, to whom the information should be transmitted or disclosed, and the purpose listed in paragraphs (b) through (j) of this section for which the information requested will be used. In addition, the requestor will specify to the extent possible the beginning and final dates of the period for which disclosure or access is requested. The request must be in writing and signed by the requestor. Except as specified in paragraphs (b) and (c) of this section, these requests should be forwarded to the Director of the facility in possession of the records or documents for response. The procedures outlined in 38 U.S.C. 5701, 5 U.S.C. 552 and 552a, and 38 CFR 1.500 through 1.582 will be followed where applicable.
(b) Disclosure shall be made to Federal agencies upon their written request to permit VA's participation in healthcare programs including healthcare delivery, research, planning, and related activities with the requesting agencies. Any Federal agency may apply to the Under Secretary for Health for approval. If the VA decides to participate in the healthcare program with the requestor, the requesting agency will enter into an agreement with VA to ensure that the agency and its staff will ensure the confidentiality of any quality assurance records or documents shared with the agency.
(c) Qualified persons or organizations, including academic institutions, engaged in healthcare program activities shall, upon request to and approval by the Under Secretary for Health, Regional Director, medical facility Director, or their designees, have access to confidential and privileged medical quality assurance records and documents to permit VA participation in a healthcare activity with the requestor, provided that no records or documents are removed from the VA facility in possession of the records.
(d) When a request under paragraphs (b) or (c) of this section concerns access for research purposes, the request, together with the research plan or protocol, shall first be submitted to and approved by an appropriate VA medical facility Research and Development Committee and then approved by the Director of the VA medical facility. The VA medical facility staff together with the qualified person(s) conducting the research shall be responsible for the preservation of the anonymity of the patients, clients, and providers and shall not disseminate any records or documents which identify such individuals directly or indirectly without the individual's consent. This applies to the handling of data or information as well as reporting or publication of findings. These requirements are in addition to other applicable protections for the research.
(e) Individually identified patient medical record information which is protected by another statute as provided in § 17.502 may not be disclosed to a non-VA person or organization, including disclosures for research purposes under paragraph (d), except as provided in that statute.
(f) Under paragraph (b), the Under Secretary for Health or designee or under paragraph (c), the Under Secretary for Health, Regional Director, medical facility Director, or their designees may approve a written request if it meets the following criteria:
(1) Participation by VA will benefit VA patient care; or
(2) Participation by VA will enhance VA medical research; or
(3) Participation by VA will enhance VA health services research; or
(4) Participation by VA will enhance VA healthcare planning or program development activities; or
(5) Participation by VA will enhance related VA healthcare program activities; and
(6) Access to the record by the requester is required for VA to participate in a healthcare program with the requester.
(g) Protected quality assurance records or documents, including records pertaining to a specific individual, will for purposes authorized under law be disclosed to a civil or criminal law enforcement governmental agency or instrumentality charged under applicable law with the protection of public health or safety, including state licensing and disciplinary agencies, if a written request for such records or documents is received from an official of such an organization. The request must state the purpose authorized by law for which the records will be used. The Under Secretary for Health, Regional Director, medical facility Director, or their designees will determine the extent to which the information is disclosable.
(h) Federal agencies charged with protecting the public health and welfare, federal and private agencies which engage in various monitoring and quality control activities, agencies responsible for licensure of individual health care facilities or programs, and similar organizations will be provided confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents if a written request for such records or documents is received from an official of such an organization. The request must state the purpose for which the records will be used. The Under Secretary for Health, Regional Director, medical facility Director, or their designees will determine the extent to which the information is disclosable.
(i) JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) survey teams and similar national accreditation agencies or boards and other organizations requested by VA to assess the effectiveness of quality assurance program activities or to consult regarding these programs are entitled to disclosure of confidential and privileged quality assurance documents with the following qualifications:
(1) Accreditation agencies which are charged with assessing all aspects of medical facility patient care, e.g., JCAHO, may have access to all confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents.
(2) Accreditation agencies charged with more narrowly focused review (e.g., College of American Pathologists, American Association of Blood Banks, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, etc.) may have access only to such confidential and privileged records and documents as are relevant to their respective focus.
(j) Confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents shall be released to the General Accounting Office if such records or documents pertain to any matter within its jurisdiction.
(k) Confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents shall be released to both VA and non-VA healthcare personnel upon request to the extent necessary to meet a medical emergency affecting the health or safety of any individual.
(l) For any disclosure made under paragraphs (a) through (i) of this section, the name of and other identifying information regarding any individual VA patient, employee, or other individual associated with VA shall be deleted from any confidential and privileged quality assurance record or document before any disclosure under these quality assurance regulations in §§ 17.500 through 17.511 is made, if disclosure of such name and identifying information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.
(m) Disclosure of the confidential and privileged quality assurance records and documents identified in § 17.501 will not be made to any individual or agency until that individual or agency has been informed of the penalties for unauthorized disclosure or redisclosure.