OCR Introduces New Tools to Assist Address the Opioid Crisis

OCR has introduced new tools and plans as part of its efforts to assist address the opioid disaster in the U.S., and comply with its obligations according to the 21st Century Treatments Act.

Two new webpages have been issued – one for consumers and one for healthcare professionals – that make information pertaining to mental/behavioral health and HIPAA more easily available.

OCR resources have been restructured to make the HHS site more user-friendly, and the latest webpages serve like a one-stop resource clarifying when, and under what conditions, health info can be shared with families, friends, and loved ones to assist them to deal with, and avoid, emergency situations like an opioid overdose or a psychological health crisis.

OCR has also released fresh direction on sharing information pertaining to substance abuse disorder and psychological health with people involved in the provision of treatment to patients. The latest resources contain fact sheets, decision charts, an infographic, and various situations that deal with the sharing of information when a person has an opioid overdose. Some of the substances have been developed particularly for parents of kids suffering from a psychological health disorder.

OCR is also collaborating with associate agencies within the HHS to find as well as develop more programs and training materials covering the acceptable uses and leaks of PHI when patients seek out or undergo, treatment for psychological health disorders or substance abuse illness.

“HHS is using every device at its disposal to assist communities upset by opioids including educating families and physicians on the way they can disclose information to help save the lives of family members,” stated OCR Director, Roger Severino.

The Information Related to Psychological and Behavioral Health can be retrieved from the links below:

Webpage for consumers

Webpage for healthcare professionals and caregivers

Direction on HIPAA and Research

OCR has also released latest guidance on HIPAA as well as research, as required by the 21st Century Cures Law. The new guidance describes how the HIPAA Secrecy Rule applies to an investigation, including when safeguarded health information might be disclosed without first obtaining consent from patients.

OCR clarifies that HIPAA-protected entities are always allowed to disclose PHI for research objectives if it has been de-identified in accordance with 45 CFR 164.502(d), and 164.514(a)-(c).

In case PHI is not de-identified, consent from patients is needed unless the covered unit has obtained detailed Institutional Review Board (IRB) or Privacy Board Consent. In the direction, OCR describes the conditions that must be satisfied to get such consent.

The guidance can be viewed here.

OCR has also created a working group that contains reps of several federal organizations, patients, scientists, healthcare providers, privacy, safety and technology specialists. The working group will study disclosures and uses of PHI for study and the group will inform on whether those disclosures and uses should be altered to assist research while making certain individuals’ secrecy rights are protected.