HHS Publishes HITECH Act Accounting of Disclosures NPRM

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has published in the May 31, 2011, Federal Register the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) entitled HIPAA Privacy Rule Accounting of Disclosures Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (76(104), pp. 31426-31449). This NPRM is available online in pdf.  Comments on the NPRM are requested to be submitted on or before August 1, 2011.  The Summary of the NPRM with abbreviations, as noted, on p. 31426, is:

“HHS is issuing this NPRM to modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s standard for accounting of disclosures of protected health information.  The purpose of these modifications is, in part, to implement the statutory requirement under the HITECH Act to require covered entities and business associates to account for disclosures of protected health information to carry out treatment, payment, and health care operations if such disclosures are through an electronic health record.  Pursuant to both the HITECH Act and its more general authority under HIPAA, the Department [HHS] proposes to expand the accounting provision to provide individuals with the right to receive an access report indicating who has accessed electronic protected health information in a designated record set.  Under its more general authority under HIPAA, the Department also proposes changes to the existing accounting requirements to improve their workability and effectiveness.”

There are several points worth noting in the NPRM.  First, HHS  includes “a direct reference to business associates in the standard to make clear that the covered entity must include accounting information for all disclosures by the covered entity’s business associates that create, receive, maintain, or transmit designated record set information.”  [p. 31430, emphasis added]  Second, “[c]overed entities must provide individuals with notices of privacy practices that detail how the covered entity may use and disclose protected health information and individuals’ rights with respect to their own health information. Beginning on January 1, 2013, individuals would have the right to receive a report of who accessed their electronic protected health information that covers a three-year period from the date of the request.  Covered entities would have to revise their privacy notices to reflect this change.” [p. 31445]  HHS estimates that 669,000 health care providers would have to revise and reissue their notices of privacy practices.  Next, HHS is “proposing that covered entities (including small health plans) and business associates comply with the modifications to the accounting of disclosures requirement beginning 180 days after the effective date of the final regulation (240 days after publication [in the Federal Register]).  We are proposing that covered entities and business associates provide individuals with a right to an access report beginning January 1, 2013, for electronic designated record set systems acquired after January 1, 2009, and beginning January 1, 2014, for electronic designated record set systems acquired as of January 1, 2009. ” [p. 31429].  Finally, HHS expects to review comments and publish the Accounting of Disclosures Final Rule by the end of 2011, which means that compliance with the accounting of disclosures requirement would begin sometime during the summer of 2012. [20110531]

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