Ask ECRI: Notifying a Pain Clinic about a Patient's Use of Street Drugs

April 25, 2018 | Ambulatory Care Risk, Quality, & Safety Guidance

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​A risk manager recently asked ECRI Institute for help handling a situation in which a clinic patient volunteered to a social worker that he had been using pain killers he bought off the street. After reviewing the patient's chart, the social worker realized the patient was also a patient of a pain management clinic that is not associated with the risk manager's organization. If the patient's primary care physician referred him to the pain management clinic, the risk manager asked, can the social worker notify the pain clinic physician about the street drug use without the patient's consent?

In our response, ECRI Institute states that the social worker should not provide this information to the pain clinic physician without the patient's consent. According to the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), one...

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