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In January 2021, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) proposed new changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule in the first major update since 2013. The changes affect many aspects of accessing and sharing patent information, as well as codify recent court decisions and guidance. Many of the changes are subtle but essential to ease the proper flow of health information in today’s interconnected, multi-provider healthcare provision environment. In addition, there are many changes to details of the rules, intended to reduce the regulatory burden, such as the elimination of the requirement to get an acknowledgment of receipt of the notice of privacy practices when working with a new patient.
If you work in any of the affected areas of your organization, from health information management to the front desk, you need to be aware of these changes to ensure compliance and avoid penalties for violations that can be in the millions of dollars. This session will review the new rule and show what needs to be considered in order to stay compliant as it is adopted.
The changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule, drafted as part of HHS’ Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care initiative, aim to remove regulations that might impede communication and data exchange between provider organizations and health plans. The changes expand individuals’ rights to access their own digital health information, boost information-sharing and case management, and enable greater family and caregiver involvement during emergencies or health crises.
The changes also offer more flexibilities for disclosures in situations such as opioid overdoses and the COVID-19 public health emergency, and, the hope is that a streamlined new rule would reduce administrative burdens on HIPAA-covered entities while continuing to protect patient privacy.
OCR proposes amending the Privacy Rule to increase permissible disclosures of protected health information and improve care coordination and case management by “adding definitions for the terms electronic health record and personal health application.”.
Additionally, provisions relating to individuals’ right of access would be modified in several ways, according to the NPRM:
The updated regulations would also clarify the scope of permitted uses and disclosures for individual-level care coordination and case management. The goal is to expand the scope of covered entities’ abilities to disclose PHI to “social services agencies, community-based organizations, home, and community-based service providers, and other similar third parties that provide health-related services.”
Among other changes, the privacy standard that permits HIPAA-covered entities to make some uses and disclosures of PHI based on “professional judgment” is replaced with a standard permitting such uses or disclosures based on that entity’s “good faith belief that the use or disclosure is in the best interests of the individual.” The rule also expands covered entities’ latitude for PHI disclosure when it’s meant to avert a “serious and reasonably foreseeable” risk to health or safety – as compared with the existing standard, which requires a “serious and imminent” threat.
It would also eliminate the requirement that providers obtain an individual’s written acknowledgment of receipt for Notice of Privacy Practices. And it would modify the content requirements of the NPP to “clarify for individuals their rights with respect to their PHI and how to exercise those rights.”
All of these issues will be touched on and an approach to updating your compliance will be presented. Being prepared for the new rule is essential in order to avoid penalties.