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HHS releases new HIPAA regulations

January 29, 2013

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights recently released a final rule regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rule. Throughout the regulatory process, the AOA has represented the interests of its members to ensure patient privacy is respected and that optometrists do not face any unfair treatment or discrimination or unnecessary compliance burdens.

The new HIPAA final rule puts into place several new provisions aimed at updating patient privacy safeguards while also recognizing how information needs to be made securely accessible now and in the future, including through electronic communications. These include:

  •  Patients will be allowed to request an electronic copy of their electronic health record.
  • Patients will have the right to instruct their doctors to withhold information about treatment if the patient pays cash for the services rendered.
  • Optometrists, like other doctors, will need to be aware of additional information requirements for Notices of Privacy Practices (NPPs).
  • NPPs must include information regarding patients’ rights following breaches of protected health information and information regarding a patients’ rights when paying for services out of pocket.

The final rule takes effect March 26; however, covered entities and their business associates generally will have until Sept. 23 to comply with most of the rule’s provisions.

The AOA is developing resources to assist members in understanding the requirements of the new regulations. Look for additional updates over the next several weeks.

If you have specific questions, contact Kara Webb at the AOA Washington office at 800-3565-2219 or email KCWebb@aoa.org.

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