HHS issues guidelines to protect patients’ privacy following Supreme Court ruling on Roe

The guide includes information on what is protected – and what is not – when using tracking periods and other health information applications on smartphones.

Following the decision of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the right to safe and legal abortion was revoked, President Biden and US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Bessera called on HHS agencies to take action to protect access to sexual and reproductive health care, including abortion, pregnancy complications and other related care. Today, in a direct response, the HHS Civil Rights Office (OCR) issued new guidelines for the protection of patients seeking reproductive health care, as well as their providers.

In general, management does two things:

  1. examines how federal laws and regulations protect individuals’ personal medical information (known as protected health information or PHI) related to abortion and other sexual and reproductive health care, clarifying that providers are not required to disclose personal medical information to third parties ; and
  2. examines the extent to which private medical information is protected on personal mobile phones and tablets, and provides advice on protecting people’s privacy when using tracking periods and other health information applications.

According to recent reports, many patients are concerned that tracking periods and other smartphone health information apps could jeopardize their right to privacy by revealing geolocation data that could be misused by those who want to refuse care.

“The way you have access to health care should not make you a target for discrimination. HHS stands by patients and providers to protect HIPAA’s privacy rights and reproductive health information, “said HHS Secretary Xavier Besera. “Anyone who believes their privacy rights have been violated can file a complaint with the OCR, as we make this a priority for enforcement. Today’s action is part of my commitment to President Biden to protect access to health care, including abortion care and other forms of sexual and reproductive health.

This guide addresses the circumstances in which the Privacy Policy of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows for the disclosure of a PIA without the permission of an individual. It explains that the disclosure of information for non-health purposes, such as the disclosure of information to law enforcement officials, is only allowed in narrow circumstances designed to protect the privacy of the individual and facilitate their access. to health care, including abortion care. In particular, management:

  • Reminds entities and business partners covered by HIPAA that they may use and disclose PHI without the signed permission of an individual, only as expressly permitted or required by the Privacy Policy.
  • Explains the limitations of the PHI Privacy Policy, when required by law, for law enforcement purposes and to prevent a serious threat to health or safety.

OCR also issues information to individuals about the protection of the confidentiality and security of their health information when using their personal mobile phone or tablet. This guide explains that in most cases, the HIPAA privacy, security, and breach notification rules do not protect the confidentiality or security of individuals’ health information when they access or store information on personal mobile phones or tablets. This guide also provides advice on the steps a person can take to reduce the way their cell phone or tablet collects and shares their health and other personal information without the person’s knowledge. This guide:

  • Explains how to turn off location services on Apple and Android devices.
  • Identifies best practices for selecting applications, browsers, and search engines that are recognized as supporting increased privacy and security.

Guidance on the HIPAA Privacy Policy and Disclosure of Reproductive Health Care Information can be found at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/phi-reproductive-health/ index.html.

A guide to protecting the privacy and security of your health information when using your personal cell phone or tablet can be found at https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/cell-phone-hipaa / index.html.

If you believe that a legal entity covered by HIPAA or its business partner has violated your (or someone else’s) privacy rights or has committed another breach of privacy, security or breach notification, you may file a complaint with https: // www. .hhs.gov / hipaa / filing-a-complaint / index.html.

For more information on how HHS works to protect reproductive rights, visit ReproductiveRights.gov.

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