If Your Student Needs Health and Wellness Care

Access to Health and Wellness Services

Your student will most likely need health and wellness care while at college. student will most likely need health and wellness care while at college. Help your student manage their own care by talking to them about preventing illness as well as when and how to seek care.

  • Using On-Campus Services: Being prepared before your student goes to school will save them time and help them connect to needed services faster. Ahead of time, you and your student should look into what health and wellness care options are available and which ones are not. 
  • Connecting to Off-Campus Services: If your student’s school has a student health center, they may not need an off-campus service for health and wellness care. However, there may be times when they will want to go off-campus for care. Together, you and your student can prepare for this option by investigating what services are available in the community and when they may be needed. 
  • Preventing Illness: No one likes to get sick, and when your student is attending college, even a minor illness like a cold can be overwhelming for them. Fortunately, there are some simple steps they can take to prevent common illnesses like colds and the flu. 
  • Treating a Minor Illness or Injury: There is a lot your student can do on their own to treat a minor injury or illness. Keeping basic first aid and over-the-counter medications on hand can help them manage on their own. Many campus convenience stores, book stores, and sometimes vending machines sell the items needed to self-treat scrapes, colds, headaches, and other minor illnesses and injuries. Help them put together a self-care kit before they leave home. 
  • When and Where to Go for Treatment: Whether your student is attending a college or university two miles away from home or all the way across the country, navigating classes and expectations while not feeling their best physically or emotionally can be tough. If they are new to campus or simply managing this for the first time, the unfamiliarity of what to do can bring an added challenge. Some of these barriers can be managed by knowing when to seek care, where to go for care, and what it will be like when they do go.

Patient Confidentiality: Are Your Student’s Medical Records Private?

  • A students’ medical records are private, and once they turn 18 (in most states, this is the age at which a person is legally an adult), parents are not allowed access to medical information unless the student gives them permission. 
  • A students’ health information is protected by HIPAA.
  • A student can sign a HIPAA Authorization Form Health Care Power of Attorney that gives parents permission to be informed about their student’s medical issues. This is important should your student need urgent medical care and you want to know how they are doing. However, it is ultimately your student’s decision to sign this document.
  • Students may find the authorization form on their institution’s website, usually through the student health center webpage.
  • You and your student should keep a hard copy and a digital copy of the HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form Health Care Power of Attorney.

If Your Student Is a Minor

  • The age of majority (the age at when a person is legally considered an adult) varies from state to state. In most states, the age of majority is 18, but in other states, that age is 19 or 21.
  • If your student is under 18, parents will need to sign a consent form for their student to be treated at the student health center. 
  • Look on the institution’s website for their policies and the consent form. 

Read more about rights, responsibilities, and privacy for your student here.

HIPAA and FERPA: Protecting Student Privacy

By now you have heard of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), but you may also hear the term FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act). HIPAA protects health information, and FERPA protects a student’s education record. 

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

HIPAA protects health information. This applies to things like medical records (either electronic or on paper) and test results. What that means is that your student’s health or wellness care provider cannot share their medical information with you, their professors, or anyone else unless your student gives them permission. HIPAA generally applies to people over the age of 18, so a health care provider could share medical information with the family of a child who is a minor. 

There may be times when a student health or wellness center may share information with a student’s family or with others if the person is over 18, such as in a health or safety emergency. There may be other times when information is shared, such as if someone discloses situations of child abuse. 

If your student wants to allow their parents or family to have access to their medical records through the student health center, your student will need to sign a HIPAA waiver form. This could be helpful in times of emergency or if your student needs urgent treatment. Check with staff at your school’s health center for more information. Ultimately, it should be the student’s decision whether to sign the HIPAA waiver form. Talk to your student about their options but let them decide what will be best for their care.

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their student’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when they reach the age of 18 or attend a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."

FERPA says that educational records cannot be shared with others unless the student gives permission to do so. “Educational records” includes things like grades, disability/accessibility records, class schedule, and even health/medical information. There may be times that a school will share some health or medical information, such as in situations of health or safety emergencies. Schools may also be required to share some health information if requested by a court. In addition, if a student is found responsible for violating the institution’s alcohol or drug policy, the school may opt to tell the student’s parents. This varies by college; check with the student conduct office at your student’s school to see if this applies.

It is important to note that FERPA applies to schools that receive federal funding. While this applies to most colleges and universities, FERPA may not be applicable at your student’s school. Check with college personnel to learn more about your student’s rights. 

Students may be able to give parents or guardians access to their school records by signing a FERPA waiver. Encourage your student to check with their institution to see if this is an option. Signing a FERPA waiver is a decision your student should make on their own. 

There are times when HIPAA and FERPA intersect. For more information on this, check out this resource from the U.S. Department of Education

HIPAA and FERPA Resources

HIPAA vs FERPA Infographic 
Consumer Reports: Will You Be Able to Help Your College-Age Child in a Medical Emergency? The HIPAA Privacy Rule can get in your way 
TeensHealth from Nemours: Your Medical Records

When Your Student Studies or Travels Abroad

Your student may have the opportunity to study or travel abroad during their college years. While this is will be a new and exciting journey for your student, there are some things you should know. The institution will likely have a study abroad office that can help as well.

Staying healthy while abroad will include learning about what to pack, information about health insurance, knowing about pre-travel screening, nutrition, and mental health. Encourage your student to do some research before they leave. There may be specific pre-travel health screenings, including immunizations, your student may need before they study abroad.

Both you and your student will also want to learn how to stay safe while studying abroad, including monitoring travel warnings and alerts.