HHS waives HIPAA sanctions and penalties for hurricane-affected hospitals

As Hurricane Florence continues its destructive path across the southeastern states this weekend, hospitals affected by the storm have been given the go ahead to break certain provisions of the HIPAA Privacy Rule if necessary without consequence.

Earlier this week, following the President’s declaration that a disaster exists in the area as a result of Hurricane Florence, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the Carolinas and Virginia. HHS then issued a bulletin waiving sanctions and penalties against covered hospitals while Hurricane Florence threatens the areas.

The Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties allows covered hospitals to break the following protocols:

• 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

• 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.

The waiver only applies to hospitals in the emergency area during the emergency period identified under the public health emergency declaration; to hospitals that have instituted disaster protocol; and for up to 72 hours from the time the hospital implements its disaster protocol.

When the public health emergency declaration ends, a hospital must then comply with all the requirements of the HIPAA Privacy Rule for any patient still under its care, even if 72 hours has not elapsed since implementation of its disaster protocol.

T0 learn more about the waiver or get information regarding other HIPAA-related issues, contact our experts at PrivaPlan at info@privaplan.com or call 877-218-7707.

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