Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) the federal government restricted the type of medical information that can be released to a third party. This restriction may make it difficult for family members and care providers to communicate with medical personnel when they are incapacitated or during end-of-life.
By signing a HIPAA release form, you thereby authorize designated agents with the ability to review your medical records and speak to your treating physicians. Often, HIPAA releases are drafted to expire a year or more after someone has passed away so that an agent can review the care provided to someone in their final days. Lastly, unlike a Health Care Proxy that is only effective once you have lost the ability to make decisions for yourself, a HIPAA release is valid the moment you sign it.