HHS waives HIPAA sanctions for hospitals affected by Hurricane Florence

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HHS issued a bulletin earlier this week waiving sanctions and penalties against covered hospitals affected by Hurricane Florence, which hit the Southeastern coastline Sept. 14, according to CNN.

HHS issued the bulletin days after after HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in the Carolinas and Virginia. Under the rule, Mr. Azar exercised his authority to waive sanctions and penalties against covered hospitals that break certain HIPAA provisions while Hurricane Florence threatens the areas.

Under the rule, covered hospitals may break the following protocols:

  • Obtaining a patient's consent to speak with family members or friends involved in the patient's care
  • Honoring requests to opt out of the facility directory
  • Distributing notice of privacy practices
  • Patient's right to request privacy restrictions
  • Patient's right to request confidential communications

The waiver only applies to hospitals in the emergency areas 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.

Once the public health emergency declaration ends, all hospitals must comply with all HIPAA requirements, even if 72 hours have not passed since the implementation of its disaster protocol.

To access the bulletin, click here.

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