We’ve all had to make adjustments to how we work, how we live, and how we interact overall with humanity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that we’ve been stricter in some regard, and more relaxed in others (limiting screen time, who can be bothered?).
The government is no exception to this. We’ve seen some state leaders ask for patience and admit that systems are not up to par when it comes to handling the onslaught of requests and inquiries for funded programs – an adjustment in itself to see a governing body admit they might not have been prepared. The Federal government has also made adjustments, becoming more lenient with enforcing laws and regulations in regard to HIPAA for the safety and well-being of the people. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has had to bend and allow information to be shared for the safety of the “greater good” regarding COVID-19, and to have it done in a manner that won’t hold the parties accountable to existing HIPAA regulations.
Does this mean that further changes of HIPAA are upon us? While some healthcare persons and organizations might like to banish it altogether, this is very unlikely to happen. If anything, what we are seeing is a program that was built on the foundation of protecting individuals and continued to do that even in unexpected and unprecedented times.
Proceed with Caution
There shouldn’t be any need to address the overall goals and methods of HIPAA as a result of COVID-19. The system didn’t fail in any way, and it remains to be the way in which patients can have a solid say in how they obtain their healthcare information, and also know that providers are being held to a standard that has patient safety at the forefront.
The adjustments to HIPAA during COVID-19 showed us that the OCR is willing to be flexible when it comes to maintaining the health of citizens without being burdened by the legal process. They were quick to adjust to allow for accommodations.
We see this as reinforcement that HIPAA still exists with the same goal of protecting the patient. While the rules have been relaxed in some aspects during this time, it’s important to remember that enforcement will go back to normal, and complying with HIPAA should not fall by the wayside as we move forward from the coronavirus pandemic.