HHS releases HIPAA emergency privacy decision support tool

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week made available a new web-based interactive decision tool to aid healthcare providers in emergency situations to determine how to access and use health information about persons with disabilities in ways consistent with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, according to an HHS release.

“Being able to coordinate health information appropriately and in advance will help save lives,” said Mike Leavitt, HHS Secretary. “This new tool strengthens America’s ability to better prepare for emergencies such as manmade and natural disasters.”

The tool focuses on the source of the information being disclosed, to whom it is being disclosed, and for what purpose. This should enable users to better meet the needs of the elderly or persons with disabilities in the event of an evacuation.

While the tool’s initial purpose focused on emergency planning for persons with disabilities, it is applicable to most emergency planning efforts. The intended audiences include covered entities as well as emergency preparedness and recovery planners at the local, state and federal levels, according to the release.