With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic widening across the U.S., the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued direction on how health care entities can pass along HIPAA-protected health information (PHI) to first responders.
The March 24, 2020, bulletin lays out circumstances for which covered entities are allowed release PHI about someone who is infected with or exposed to COVID-19, to law enforcement, paramedics and other first responders – without the patient’s authorization but in compliance with HIPAA.
In its bulletin, the OCR-HHS states that situations for which HIPAA-protected health information of a patient who has, or has been exposed to, COVID-19 can be released to first responders include:
The OCR-HHS bulletin also stresses that, “Except when required by law, or for treatment disclosures, a covered entity must make reasonable efforts to limit the information used or disclosed under any provision [listed in the above circumstances] to that which is the ‘minimum necessary’ to accomplish the purpose for the disclosure.”
We at Chapman Law Group understand that this OCR-HHS HIPAA notice comes at a critical time for medical professionals.
Health care practices are facing not just a surge of patients being tested or treated for Coronavirus, but also the potential for exposure. Employers and employees must stay concerned with having proper protection and safety measures at the work site. And temporary changes to state and federal health policy and practice are being issued at a rapid clip.
Through it all, our health care lawyers are here to help you make sense of what is happening. We’re here to advise you on staying compliant with HIPAA and to keep you informed about other compliance matters your practice may be facing. Contact us today.
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