Trump administration softens overdose privacy rule in move to combat opioid epidemic

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In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, the Trump administration announced Friday it will relax a federal privacy rule that prevents healthcare providers from sharing information about drug overdoses with a patient's family members, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The relaxed rule, released by the HHS Office for Civil Rights, will allow providers to share information with a patient's family members, friends and legal representatives if the patient is "in crisis or incapacitated."

"HHS is bringing all of the resources our department has to bear in order to address this crisis. This will ensure families have the right information when trying to help loved ones who are dealing with the scourge of drug addiction," said Eric D. Hargan, acting HHS secretary.

The rule comes in the form of a clarifying guidance that gives medical professionals increased confidence in their ability to share health information without a breach of HIPAA.

"I commend [Director of HHS' Office of Civil Rights] Roger Severino and the HHS Office for Civil Rights for their swift action in clarifying for healthcare providers how they can share information with a patient's family and friends," Mr. Hargan added.

The announcement to soften the federal privacy law comes a day after President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. 

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