The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) was enacted in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton to provide security for patient health information, privacy for health plans and to improve efficiency and portability of healthcare and insurance. Due to COVID-19, some HIPAA regulations have been relaxed to assist with allowing providers to still deliver needed care. This includes the heavy use of telemedicine services, sharing of health statuses for individuals as social distancing, virus tracking, and stay-at-home orders have been key to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Here is a closer look at some of the HIPAA regulations that have been relaxed at this time.
HIPAA Regulations & the Privacy Rule
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has ruled some of the provisions around the HIPAA regulations and specifically, the Privacy Rule will be waived due to the current pandemic. This went into effect on March 15, 2020, and includes the following provisions:
- Obtain a patient’s agreement to speak with family members or friends involved in the patient’s care. See 45 CFR 164.510(b).
- Honor a request to opt-out of the facility directory. See 45 CFR 164.510(a).
- The requirement to distribute a notice of privacy practices. See 45 CFR 164.520.
- Patient’s right to request privacy restrictions. See 45 CFR 164.522(a).
- Patient’s right to request confidential communications. See 45 CFR 164.522(b).
Still, while this information is critical for the safety of the public during a health crisis, it is important that all efforts are made to limit exposure of information to only the entities who require access and that the details shared are limited to only those required for fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Access to Telehealth Services
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has also worked over the last several months to ensure regulatory burdens were not the main focus of providers as they work to fight the national pandemic. By relaxing its enforcement around those areas necessary to provide care and stop the spread of the virus.
This includes an amendment to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to allow healthcare providers the ability to communicate with patients and provide services using approved remote communications technologies. Due to how these technologies must operate and may be used, some aspects may not comply totally with HIPAA regulations and rules, so they have been lifted in hopes that those needing care in high-risk communities and with limited access to services can still receive it.
These relaxed HIPAA regulations will remain in effect until the government feels the virus has been tamed and is no longer a global threat to the public.
If you are a health facility, it is crucial that you understand these changes and work to remain compliant at all times. Red Bags is here to help you as we navigate these unprecedented times together. Our services provide everything from efficient and compliant medical waste disposal and hauling services to supplies and more.
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