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HHS says proposed HIPAA changes will cut regulations while maintaining privacy

| Dec 18, 2020 | HIPAA |

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently proposed changes to data privacy rules that it says will increase patient access to their health information and will improve coordination of care between physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers, as well as insurers.

The HHS said the proposed changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule will help enable patients to be engaged in their care. The changes to HIPAA will also make it easier for providers to coordinate care. HHS also says its proposal will reduce the healthcare industry’s regulatory burdens.

Protecting private information

HHS says its changes will do all of that “while continuing to protect the privacy and security of individuals’ protected health information.”

The proposed changes will also enable family members and caregivers to be more involved in health emergencies or crises and give greater disclosure flexibility to care providers in emergencies or threatening situations. Two examples of these circumstances cited by HHS were the Covid-19 pandemic and the opioid crisis.

In a press statement, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “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.”

Support for the proposal

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) said the proposed changes strengthen the individual right of access under HIPAA.

“We are . . .  pleased it seeks to clarify how an individual’s right to direct their protected health information (PHI) to a third party should be treated. In certain instances, this has led to delays in individuals being able to access their medical record,” said Wylecia Wiggs Harris, Ph.D., CEO of AHIMA.