The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) have issued a bulletin in “light of the Ebola outbreak and other events” to clarify “the ways in which patient information may be shared under the HIPAA Privacy Rule in an emergency situation.”

The bulletin notes that the HIPAA Privacy Rule is balanced so that, when necessary, protected health information (PHI) can be shared or disclosed to help treat a patient, to protect the nation’s public health and “for other critical purposes.”

For instance, a patient’s PHI may be disclosed without that person’s authorization if it’s needed to treat that patient or to treat a different patient. PHI can also be shared with public health authorities at the federal, state or local level to help them “carry out their public health mission.”

For further details and examples, please read “HIPAA Privacy in Emergency Situations.”

For further understanding of HIPAA and its rules, please visit the HIPAA & COBRA Compliance section on our website.