Proposed Changes to HIPAA Privacy Rule

Angie Szumlinski Announcements, News

The Department of Health and Human Services issued a long-awaited proposed rule that would modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Among the changes proposed are:

  • Dropping the requirement for healthcare entities to obtain and retain for six years patients’ signed acknowledgements of notices of privacy practices
  • Reducing the time from 30 days to 15 days for covered entities to fulfill patient requests for receiving copies of their health information
  • Allowing more flexibility to healthcare providers in making decisions to share patient information, such as about opioid abuse or COVID-19 treatment, with family members in situations involving “serious and foreseeable” threats rather than the current “serious and imminent” threat standard.

The 357-page proposal, part of HHS’ “regulatory sprint to coordinate care”, aims to support individuals’ engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care and reduce regulatory burdens on the healthcare industry. “Our proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule will break down barriers that have stood in the way of commonsense care coordination and value-based arrangements for far too long”, said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “As part of our broader efforts to reform regulations that impede care coordination, these proposed reforms will reduce burdens on providers and empower patients and their families to secure better health”.

HHS says the proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule will:

  • Strengthen individuals’ rights to access their own health information, including electronic information
  • Improve information sharing for care coordination in case management
  • Facilitate greater family and caregiver involvement in the care of individuals experiencing emergencies or health crises
  • Enhance flexibilities for disclosures in emergency or threatening circumstances, such as the opioid and COVID-19 public health emergencies
  • Reduce administrative burdens on HIPAA-covered healthcare providers and health plans while continuing to protect individuals’ health information privacy.

“These are comprehensive reforms to the HIPAA regulations that were a long time coming” HHS OCR Director Roger Severino said. To read the entire draft proposal please click the link below. Stay the course, stay well, mask up, get vaccinated and stay tuned!