The Scary Truth About Your Role in the Opioid Crisis

Happy Halloween! In this week’s edition of HIPAA News…

Health Emergency…The Opioid Crisis!

This week we are going to focus on your role as a medical professional or supplier that supports Healthcare Practices in the Opioid Crisis.

Last week, President Trump’s call to action led to the declaration of a nationwide public health emergency regarding the Opioid Crisis. This impacts you as a medical professional or supplier. The HHS Office of Civil rights has just released new guidance on when and how healthcare providers can share patient health information with family or friends or when a patient may be in a crisis and incapacitated, such as during an opioid overdose.

Here are just two of the five bullets that the HHS Office of Civil Rights published late last week.

HIPAA allows health care professionals and suppliers to disclose some health information without a patient’s permission under certain circumstances, including:

  1. Sharing health information with family and close friends who are involved in care of the patient if the provider determines that doing so is in the best interests of an incapacitated or unconscious patient and the information shared is directly related to the family or friend’s involvement in the patient’s health care or payment of care. For example, a provider may use professional judgment to talk to the parents of someone incapacitated by an opioid overdose about the overdose and related medical information, but generally could not share medical information unrelated to the overdose without permission.
  2. Informing persons in a position to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to a patient’s health or safety. For example, a doctor whose patient has overdosed on opioids is presumed to have complied with HIPAA if the doctor informs family, friends, or caregivers of the opioid abuse after determining, based on the facts and circumstances, that the patient poses a serious and imminent threat to his or her health through continued opioid abuse upon discharge.

Our suggestion to you is to be aware of these new guidelines and ensure you only share information as needed. Also, you should download, print, and share the guidelines from the HHS Office of Civil Rights.

If you still have questions contact our office at 830-521-2111 and we will gladly help you navigate these new rules.