Cliff Notes: Podcast Episode 1: HIPAA Forms, Health Care Directive

In my last post, I shared a podcast I recorded interviewing Twin Cities attorney, Marya Robben, about the importance of having your college students sign a HIPAA waiver and a Health Care Directive before they head of to school (or really, on their 18th birthday).  I have been a college professor long enough to know that not everyone will listen to the interview (though you should!), so here is a quick and easy summary of her suggestions with to-do items:

Student should sign a HIPAA Waiver:

This document is required for any medical professional to even talk to someone else about a person’s health information. If your college student is incapacitated in any way, you will not be able to get medical answers without one.  There’s no universal form, and what each provider will require may differ some, so here is a summary of what Robben suggests:

  • Ask your student’s Primary Care Provider at home for their “HIPAA Waiver”. Students  indicate on the form who they authorize to be able to obtain information. Student signs it. Both of you take a picture of the document to store on your phone, and file it at home, now you have something.
  • Ask the College Health Service for one (for some schools this may be automatically provided, for others it will not). Same process as above.
  • Consider what health system you would use in the college town, ask them for their HIPAA waiver, same process.

Some notes about privacy.  I know many students who may not be comfortable with a blanket waiver authorizing their parents to obtain medical records.  Robben would encourage you to:

  • choose someone you are comfortable with to provide this authorization to, rather than avoiding the document altogether
  • remember that the authorization does not mean medical information will be shared – it means that the person who is authorized would be able to obtain information if they asked
  • remember this is a permission you can revoke at any time

Health Care Directive (or Living Will):

A health care directive will sometimes include a HIPAA waiver for the authorized person.  A health care directive lets someone make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do so. If you have an attorney, you can have them draft one. If you do not, you can determine whether your medical provider or local medical association has a form online to use.

If you cannot find a form from these sources, Robben, like any good lawyer, is somewhat wary of forms that you google.  She suggests for its easy interface. I took a look at the site, and for about $5.00 it will walk the student through questions about their wishes in the event they cannot make their own health care choices. Even if they cannot answer all the questions right now (there is some deep stuff in there), students can name someone to make medical decisions on their behalf.  Print the document, sign it, and keep a copy handy (or, again, on your phone.)

Create an Emergency Card

The student should make a wallet card with their health information on it, including an emergency contact and any medical information. Also take a look at the settings on your phone.  The iPhone allows your emergency medical information to be accessed without a password if you tell it so. (Everyone needs to balance their privacy and medical risks, of course.)

DISCLAIMER: As always, a podcast and a blog are not a substitute for legal advice. This information is provided to inform people of legal issues. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by reading this post.

Author: Leo

Lawyer, educator, speaker, and mother of teens bracing for my gradually emptying nest. Writing about any and all. Opinions are my own and subject to change. Are yours? For more information about programs, training, and events visit

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