Public health emergencies -- a weekly HIPAA message

picture disc.HIPAA, the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996," provides federal protection of patient health information. You will be receiving weekly messages to help you understand the topic and how it impacts your job. Today's HIPAA message explores whether disclosures can be made to public officials responding to bioterrorism or other public health emergencies.

May health-care providers make disclosures to public officials who are responding to bioterrorism or other public health emergencies (such as a tornado)?

Yes. Individuals who are responsible for coordination of communication under existing emergency management plans may disclose information essential to a quick and effective response to such events.

Source: Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights FAQ's dated March 11, 2003.

picture disc. If you're a manager, please ensure all of your employees are informed of the contents of these messages and how it applies to your work area. Some ways of sharing the information include discussions during staff meetings, printing and posting this message or asking your employees if they have any further questions.