The Role of HIPAA Compliance Policy in The Outbreak of Coronavirus

According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, 63% of local pharmacists reported customers buying surgical masks as a precaution against the Coronavirus. With such a huge demand, 96% are selling their mask faster than they can restock. Moreover, respirator masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves are also selling quickly, as reported by HME NEWS.

Beginning in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, Coronavirus now appears to be spreading to the whole of the United States, which is driving concerns for organizations around preparedness regarding their operations, their customers, and their employees. Being a significant public health threat, as said by 32% of pharmacists in the survey whereas 42% disagree, while 26% are still unsure.

Wall-to-wall news coverage of the Coronavirus is driving concern among patients, even though only a handful of cases have been reported in the U.S., compared to China. However, in such a public health emergency, HIPAA compliance is a sensitive area to deal with, including both its restrictions and its flexibility in this type of situation.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the first week of February had published a bulletin saying how the HIPAA Privacy Rule comes into play with the Coronavirus outbreak and other public health emergencies.

Even being in a public health emergency, the requirements of HIPAA still apply. These guidelines are extremely important to adhere to, which is why it can be such a big deal for healthcare companies to provide HIPAA Training to their employees. Even though a public health emergency exists, it does not mean that covered entities can freely disclose PHI (protected health information) for other purposes. However, exceptions are there too in a public health emergency, as HIPAA permits covered entities to disclose PHI (protected health information) without a patient’s authorization in:

  • Foreign government authorities (at the direction of public health authorities);
  • Persons at risk;
  • Family, friends, police, disaster relief organizations, etc. who are involved in the patient’s care; and
  • Anyone, if it would lessen or prevent a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of the public at large or an individual.

So are your staff or your operational extension experts is effective in the HIPAA compliance program to be the perfect destination during a public health emergency?

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