State Law on HIV Testing Requires Verbal Consent Only
Massachusetts has enacted a new law that, beginning July 31, 2012, requires verbal consent only from a patient in order to conduct an HIV test.
As of this date, clinicians (physician, nurse, physician assistant, social worker) are no longer required to use the Consent for HIV testing form, and the patient will no longer have to sign the form prior to testing. The phlebotomists and laboratory will not require any special documents to obtain the blood sample and to perform the blood test. Prior to enactment of this law, written patient consent was required.
In addition to clinicians obtaining the patient's VERBAL consent prior to testing, the verbal consent should be documented in the medical record prior to testing. Clinicians must date, time and sign the note in the medical record (electronic or inpatient medical record) after the discussion with the patient. As with any important clinical test, it is good practice to document why the test is being ordered.
The law changed because supporters of the legislation believe that by removing the written consent requirement, more people will get tested for HIV. Also, the written paper work was cumbersome. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention favor verbal consent, and the majority of states use verbal consent. Strong confidentiality protections remain in place around HIV tests, and any other medical test that a patient may have. Federal law forbids all health care workers from disclosing a patient's medical information unless that information is needed to provide patient care.