HHS Proposes Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

On December 10, 2020, HHS and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced “proposed changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to support individuals’ engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care, and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is part of HHS’s Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, initiated under HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s value-based transformation agenda and led by HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, which seeks to promote value-based health care by examining federal regulations that impede efforts among health care providers and health plans to better coordinate care for patients.

The proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule include strengthening individuals’ rights to access their own health information, including electronic information; improving information sharing for care coordination and case management for individuals; facilitating greater family and caregiver involvement in the care of individuals experiencing emergencies or health crises; enhancing flexibilities for disclosures in emergency or threatening circumstances, such as the Opioid and COVID-19 public health emergencies; and reducing administrative burdens on HIPAA covered health care providers and health plans, while continuing to protect individuals’ health information privacy interests.

OCR encourages comments from all stakeholders, including patients and their families, HIPAA covered entities (health plans, health care clearinghouses, and most health care providers) and their business associates, consumer advocates, health care professional associations, health information management professionals, health information technology vendors, and government entities.

Public comments on the NPRM will be due 60 days after publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register.  The NPRM may be viewed or downloaded from HHS’s website at https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/hhs-ocr-hipaa-nprm.pdf (PDF).”

This proposed rule (RIN 0945-AA00) is a 357-page document.  At the time of my blog, I haven’t been able to locate when this proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register – I’m still looking.