What hospitals can and can't share with first responders about COVID-19 patients

Hospitals may share a limited amount of protected health information about patients who have been diagnosed or exposed to COVID-19 with law enforcement, paramedics and other first responders, according to new guidelines released March 24 by the Office for Civil Rights.

The guidelines allow hospitals to share the names and other identifying information about COVID-19 patients with public health authorities and other public offices without the patient’s HIPAA authorization.

A few examples of when it would be appropriate to share patient data, include:

  • When needed to provide treatment.
  • When required by law.
  • When first responders may be at risk for an infection.
  • When disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat.

The OCR goes on to emphasize that hospitals should make efforts to limit the amount of protected health information shared with first responders.

“Our nation needs our first responders like never before and we must do all we can to assure their safety while they assure the safety of others,” said Roger Severino, OCR director. “This guidance helps ensure first responders will have greater access to real time infection information to help keep them and the public safe.”

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