The HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has released a new set of tools explaining consumers’ rights to access health information under HIPAA.
Earlier this year the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights released new guidance for healthcare providers and other covered entities explaining how the HIPAA Privacy Rule requires covered entities to provide consumers with a copy of their electronic protected health information (ePHI) on request. The guidance covers the circumstances under which covered entities must provide copies of ePHI, how those data can be supplied, the allowable charges for supplying ePHI copies, and to whom the data can be supplied.
While that guidance can be accessed by the general public, the latest tools have been developed primarily for consumers. The new tools explain, in an easily accessible format, how rights can be exercised, the likely charges that will be applied for obtaining copies of health information, and the reasons why health data may be required by consumers.
By accessing their health information, consumers can take a more active role in their healthcare and can better monitor chronic health conditions and follow treatment plans. Patients can check their medical histories for errors, and if they wish, can choose to provide their medical data to research institutions. By obtaining copies of their health data, it becomes much easier for consumers to share data with other healthcare providers. While the goal may be to achieve a fully interoperable healthcare system where data can be shared effortlessly between healthcare providers without providing copies to patients, a number of barriers still exist which prevent this.
The new HIPAA tools for consumers include an easy-to-follow infographic which succinctly explains patients’ rights to access healthcare information and how they can send those data to third parties such as research institutions or other healthcare providers. A fact sheet on consumers’ rights to access healthcare information has been produced, along with three videos in English with Spanish captions.
The videos cover a different aspect of consumers’ access rights:
- Consumers’ rights to access health information
- Timescales and allowable HIPAA fees for providing copies of health data
- HIPAA access to health data and third parties
The tools have been issued specifically for consumers, although healthcare providers can also use these tools to better inform their own patients. The infographic can be printed and posted in waiting rooms and videos can be played on screens in medical offices.
The videos can be accessed via the ONC website and the ONC’s YouTube channel.