Last week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that there would be a 45-day extension of the comment period for the public with regard to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on modifying the HIPAA Privacy Rule that was originally posted in December of 2020. What does that mean in “normal” terms? The public has until May 6, 2021, to submit comments on the topic.

The notification announced proposed changes that included strengthening an individual’s rights to access their own health information. This included electronic information, factors around family & caregiver involvement in emergencies, improved sharing of information with regard to care coordination and case management, flexibility for disclosing information during public health emergencies (like the COVID-19 pandemic) and reducing administrative burdens on health care providers and health plans that fall under HIPAA regulation laws.

According to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan, this announcement “is a continuation of our ongoing work under my Regulatory Sprint to Coordinated Care to eliminate unnecessary regulatory barriers blocking patients from getting better care”, Hagan continued that “These proposed changes reduce the burden on providers and support new ways for them to innovate and coordinate care on behalf of patients while ensuring that we uphold HIPAA’s promise of privacy and security.”

Comments are encouraged by OCR by all parties that would be affected by this change, including patients and their families, as well as HIPAA-covered entities, consumer advocates, and more.

Additionally, you can submit comments to the proposal by:

  1. Visiting the Federal eRulemaking portal
  2. Search for the Docket ID number HHS-OCR-0945-AA00
  3. Follow the instructions provided to submit comments

Or you may mail comments to this address:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights

Attention: Proposed Modifications to the HIPAA Privacy Rule to Support, and Remove Barriers to, Coordinated Care and Individual Engagement NPRM, RIN 0945-AA00,

Hubert H. Humphrey Building

Room 509F

200 Independence Avenue SW

Washington, DC 20201

As this will affect many in the healthcare industry, if not all individuals, you will want to understand this proposed change, as well as voice any concerns or support for it.