The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). The HIPAA Privacy Rule provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities, and it gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes. This rule does not allow a friend or family member to access your records unless you give them permission in a form such as an Advanced Directive.
*Definition taken from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Website: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understandning/coveredentities/index.html