HHS Seeking Industry Feedback on HIPAA Modifications

The US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) this week issued a Request for Information (RFI) on “Modifying HIPAA Rules to Improve Coordinated Care,” which will collect public input on how the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules—the HIPAA Privacy Rule in particular—could be modified to better promote coordinated, value-based care.

“This RFI is another crucial step in our Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care, which is taking a close look at how regulations like HIPAA can be fine-tuned to incentivize care coordination and improve patient care, while ensuring that we fulfill HIPAA’s promise to protect privacy and security,” said HHS Deputy Secretary Eric D. Hargan in a press release.

As healthcare has evolved with innovation in technology and the move toward a value-based care model, the industry has increasingly called for updates to HIPAA that would better reflect the new operating environment.

“We are looking for candid feedback about how the existing HIPAA regulations are working in the real world and how we can improve them,” said OCR Director Roger Severino in the release. “We are committed to pursuing the changes needed to improve quality of care and eliminate undue burdens on covered entities while maintaining robust privacy and security protections for individuals’ health information.”

Specific areas of the HIPAA Privacy Rule on which the RFI seeks comment include:

  • Encouraging information-sharing for treatment and care coordination
  • Facilitating parental involvement in care
  • Addressing the opioid crisis and serious mental illness
  • Accounting for disclosures of protected health information for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations as required by the HITECH Act
  • Changing the current requirement for certain providers to make a good faith effort to obtain an acknowledgment of receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices

During a Congressional briefing last week in Washington, DC, AHIMA, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), and other health IT stakeholders advocated for the modernization of HIPAA regulations. Much has changed in healthcare since HIPAA was first enacted. The RFI is a welcome sign that the need to revise and modernize HIPAA is on OCR’s radar, according to Lauren Riplinger, JD, senior director of federal relations at AHIMA.

AHIMA continues to work with AMIA to assess the ways in which HIPAA must be modernized to meet the needs of today’s modern healthcare industry. To view the recommendations AHIMA and AMIA proposed in their Congressional briefing, click here.

Public comments on the HIPAA modernization RFI are due February 11, 2019. AHIMA staff will be working with the Advocacy and Policy Council, along with other AHIMA practice councils, to draft comments for the RFI. To access the RFI online in the Federal Register, click here.

 

Sarah Sheber is assistant editor/web editor at Journal of AHIMA.

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