OCR addresses HIPAA privacy in emergencies

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently posted an FAQ regarding the status of the privacy rule during a national or public health emergency on the OCR web site.

The new FAQ addresses the question, "Is the HIPAA Privacy Rule suspended during a national or public health emergency?"

The OCR confirms in the FAQ that the HIPAA privacy rule is not suspended. However, the Secretary of Health and Human Services may waive certain aspects of the rule pursuant to the Project Bioshield Act of 2004. Provisions that may be waived include:

• The requirement for authorization to discuss care with a patients' family members or friends;

• The requirement that covered entities distribute the notice of privacy practices;

• The right of a patient to request privacy restrictions or confidential communications. To see the FAQ, go to http://www.hhs.gov/hipaafaq/providers/hipaa-1068.html.