COVID-19 has Changed HIPAA Regulations – Data Sharing is Now Imperative

Matt Gibson
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A few months ago, nobody could have seen this coming. Fast forward to the present, and the majority of the world’s population is under lockdown for health reasons. The coronavirus outbreak has caused ruckus all over the world, and globally it has not slowed down in pace yet. The number of people infected globally continues to increase as well as the death toll. COVID-19 has infected over 1,692,343 individuals and the number of deaths is 102,399 as of 27 April 2020. While many have recovered, there are reports that some people are being reinfected. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in people living in lockdown, and the world has come to a standstill, apart from essential services. Even HIPAA regulations have been changed to address it. 

HIPAA regulations relaxed

The effects of the COVID-19 are so profound that it has resulted in certain laws and regulations in the US healthcare system to change, to help fight this pandemic. It has caused healthcare providers, organizations, as well as agencies to collect, distribute, and report data which will significantly improve coordinated care. This move focuses on interoperability more than ever before, and the government has relaxed the sharing of information regulations, as well as HIPAA regulations, in the hope of faster responses from healthcare providers and better care for patients. 

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Why was it necessary?

Data sharing is now a top-level priority, as it assists with patient treatment and effectively shortens response times – and with a pandemic every minute counts! Organizations can now share relevant patient information without fear of violating HIPAA regulations and incurring penalties.

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The timeline

On March 17, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, declared that certain HIPAA regulations would be relaxed and that HIPAA penalties would not be enforced by his administration. These regulations and penalties relaxations are related to violating a patient’s right to request privacy restrictions, confidential communications, as well as others, which the government believes will help organizations and providers to share a patient’s data who is suffering from COVID-19.

On April 2, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) added to the aforementioned relaxation of HIPAA regulations. The OCR announced that it will not be enforcing penalties on healthcare providers and business associates in the cases of disclosing sensitive protected health information (PHI) with local, federal, or state health departments.

Certain HIPAA regulations must be maintained

However, there are some conditions. For instance, healthcare providers are required to remove sensitive information such as personal identification materials from the shared data, and the data can only be shared with federal agencies.

HIPAA compliance is still complex

While HIPAA regulations have been relaxed to help with data sharing to better fight the unprecedented pandemic sweeping the country, HIPAA is still a complex and multi-layered law. If health organizations are to stay in business, they need to ensure ongoing HIPAA compliance, which can be cumbersome and requires significant time and effort, as well as resources. 

Fortunately, HIPAA Ready is available to help organizations simplify their HIPAA compliance. HIPAA Ready is a HIPAA compliance software that reduces the burden on your organization by streamlining HIPAA compliance management. With features such as digital checklists, training management and scheduling, policy and procedure customization, and incident reporting, you can keep all the data and documentation required in just one software package! You will be prepared for audits and can ensure HIPAA compliance easily with HIPAA Ready.

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