HHS proposes changes to HIPAA Privacy Rule to reduce regulatory burdens

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights has proposed changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule to support individuals' engagement in their care, remove barriers to coordinated care and reduce regulatory burdens on the health care industry, according to an HHS news release.

The proposed changes to the rule include strengthening individuals' rights to access their own health information, including electronic information; improving information sharing for care coordination and case management for individuals; facilitating greater family and caregiver involvement in the care of individuals experiencing emergencies or health crises; enhancing flexibilities for disclosures in emergency or threatening circumstances, such as the opioid and COVID-19 public health emergencies; and reducing administrative burdens on HIPAA-covered health care providers and health plans while continuing to protect individuals' health information privacy interests.

"Our proposed changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule will break down barriers that have stood in the way of commonsense care coordination and value-based arrangements for far too long," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the release. "As part of our broader efforts to reform regulations that impede care coordination, these proposed reforms will reduce burdens on providers and empower patients and their families to secure better health."

The Office for Civil Rights encourages comments from all stakeholders, including patients and their families, HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates, consumer advocates, health care professional associations, health information management professionals, health information technology vendors, and government entities.

Public comments on the proposed changes will be due 60 days after they are published by the Office of the Federal Register. An initial version of the document is available at hhs.gov.