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Office of Civil Rights Issues HIPAA Enforcement Guidance for Coronavirus – Health Law and Regulation Update Blog Post by Eric Frisch

March 30, 2020

Recent Health Law and Regulation Update Blog post by Eric Frisch.

The Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”) division of the Department of Human Services is responsible for enforcing HIPAA, the Privacy Rule, and related regulations. On Saturday, OCR issued guidance relaxing enforcement of the Privacy Rule dictates concerning telehealth, notification to family members and others, and disclosures to the media. The OCR cautions covered entities (i.e., health care providers and facilities) to obtain verbal consent to disclosures and to disclose only the “minimum necessary” information, but does permit covered entities to disclose a patient’s private health information to family members, friends, and others as needed.

The guidance can be found by clicking here.

The take-home message is that the public health crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone, including OCR, to change the way they do business. Covered entities and their business associates, like lawyers defending health care providers, should continue to follow the Privacy Rule dictates in daily practice with a narrow carve-out for COVID-19 related disclosures. Even then, health care providers are advised to document verbal consent and the subsequent disclosures because, at some point, this crisis will pass.

We at CSKL remain committed to the support of all healthcare providers and we thank and applaud you for all you do and all you are doing now!

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