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OCR Issues HIPAA Guidance on Responding to Opioid Crisis

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OCR Issues HIPAA Guidance on Responding to Opioid Crisis

By Jason Billups

The  OCR released new guidance to help healthcare providers understand when, how, and with whom they can share a patient’s health information during certain crisis situations, such as an opioid overdose, without violating HIPAA privacy regulations.  This comes in the wake of President Trump’s call to action that led HHS to declare the opioid crisis a public health emergency.  HIPAA currently allows healthcare providers to disclose some health information without a patient’s authorization under certain circumstances, including when doing so may prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to a patient’s health and safety. For example, the guidance confirms that a doctor may inform family, friends, or caregivers of a patient’s opioid overdose if the doctor determines that the patient poses a serious and imminent threat through continued opioid abuse following discharge.