(a) The Department shall make or cause to be made inspections of Cardiac Rehabilitation Programs as it deems necessary. The Department is empowered to delegate to a State officer, agent, board, bureau or division of State government the authority to make these inspections according to the rules promulgated by the Department. In addition, an individual who is not a State officer or agent and who is delegated the authority to make these inspections must be approved by the Department. The Department may revoke this delegated authority in its discretion.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of G.S. 8-53, "Communications between physician and patient," or any other provision of law relating to the confidentiality of communications between physician and patient, the representatives of the Department who make these inspections may review any writing or other record in any recording medium which pertains to the admission, discharge, medication, treatment, medical condition, or history of persons who are or have been patients of the program being inspected unless that patient objects in writing to review of that patient's records. Physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, and anyone else involved in giving treatment at or through a program who may be interviewed by representatives of the Department may disclose to these representatives information related to any inquiry, notwithstanding the existence of the physician-patient privilege in G.S. 8-53, "Communication between physician and patient," or any other rule of law, provided the patient has not made written objection to this disclosure. The program, its employees, and any person interviewed during these inspections shall be immune from liability for damages resulting from the disclosure of any information to the Department. Any confidential or privileged information received from review of records or interviews shall be kept confidential by the Department and not disclosed without written authorization of the patient or legal representative, or unless disclosure is ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction. The Department shall institute appropriate policies and procedures to ensure that this information shall not be disclosed without authorization or court order. The Department shall not disclose the name of anyone who has furnished information concerning a facility without the consent of that person. Neither the names of persons furnishing information nor any confidential or privileged information obtained from records or interviews shall be considered "public records" within the meaning of G.S. 132-1, "'Public records' defined." Prior to releasing any information or allowing any inspections referred to in this section, the patient must be advised in writing by the program that the patient has the right to object in writing to the release of information or review of the records and that by an objection in writing the patient may prohibit the inspection or release of the records. (1983, c. 775, s. 1.)