HIPAA Rules On Hold for Hurricane Relief

Rock a bye Texas and the Sunshine State
When the wind blows the houses fall down
When the rains fall water fills the town
Residents flee without cradle or crate

While Americans can agree that HIPPA rules designed to protect their privacy in the healthcare system are a great idea, the regulations can, at times, complicate the delivery of healthcare. That is certainly the case in the event of large-scale disasters like hurricanes. In response to the recent hurricane activity that ravaged the South, the Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency.

That means some waive sanctions and penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA will be waived during the emergency. The waivers allow emergency personnel and medical facilities to take immediate action to help people and patients. Waivers apply only for the following HIPAA requirements:

The requirements to obtain a patient’s agreement to speak with family members or friends involved in the patient’s care

The requirement to honor a request to opt out of the facility directory

The requirement to distribute a notice of privacy practices

The patient’s right to request privacy restrictions

The patient’s right to request confidential communications

These waivers only apply to:

In the emergency area identified, hospitals that have instituted a disaster protocol, for 72 hours from the time the hospital implements its disaster protocol

Other provisions of the Privacy Rule continue to apply, even during the waiver period. When the emergency is over, all HIPAA regulations are back in effect. For further reading, check out these webpages

Hurricane Harvey HIPAA Bulletin.

Emergency Situations: Preparedness, Planning, and Response

Disclosures for Emergency Preparedness