Proposed HIPAA Changes Intended to “Empower Patients” and “Improve Coordination of Care”

Tucker Arensberg, P.C.
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Tucker Arensberg, P.C.

On December 10, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) collaborated on announcing proposed HIPAA changes, intended to “empower patients” and “improve coordination of care”.

That’s encouraging, although one would have thought that to be unnecessary by now.  HIPAA was enacted in 1996.  It is a little surprising this remains a problem.

The announcement and proposals occupy approximately 350 pages, accessible through this link, so we are going to wait until we get something more specific to discuss actual language, but the changes that appear to have the most potential impact are as follows:

  • Allowing patients to take images and make notes with respect to electronic records rather than waiting for paper copies
  • Facilitating the use of an “EHR pathway”, so that the patients can share records with multiple providers online
  • Providing exceptions to the “minimum necessary disclosure” language which would allow more sharing for the purpose of improving coordination of care
  • Allowing disclosure of PHI when the providers determine in good faith that it would be in the best interest of the patients, i.e. disclosure to family
  • Allowing more disclosures to law enforcement when there is a serious and reasonably foreseeable threat

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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