New Guidance on Patient Privacy: HHS addresses how Dobbs affects protected health information

Campanella Law Office Statement on the United States Supreme Court Ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Womens Health OrganizationCampanella Law Office believes that there is a wholly valid constitutionally legal basis and deep-seated precedent for a federal constitutional right to privacy for all Americans, specifically including in healthcare and private decisions about health care that should only be between a patient and their physicians and providers.  Our firm will continue to use all of its resources to support our physician and provider clients in their unwavering dedication and obligation to provide their patients with all necessary, desired, and available health care options and resources for the best possible patient outcomes.

By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD

On Friday, June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade and stripped Americans of their federally protected right to a legal abortion; sending the question of the procedure’s legality back to the individual states. As a result, access to abortion in more than half of the country changed quickly,  raising concerns among providers and patients as to how the ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson Womens Health Organization, might undercut the federally protected right to patient privacy.

Recognizing a need to provide clarification on permitted disclosures and limitations, and at the instruction of President Biden, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acted quickly to offer direction.  On June 29, 2022 the HHS issued guidance addressing HIPAA and guidance addressing privacy issues related to smartphones and health-tracking applications.  

 Among the key points contained in the guidance are:

  • The clarification that protected health information (PHI) relating to abortion and other sexual reproductive health care remains protected by HIPAA. Therefore, providers are not required to disclose private medical information to third parties.
  • The explanation that HIPAA permits (but does not require) disclosure of PHI in matters unrelated to health care in very narrow circumstances that are specifically tailored to protect privacy and support access to healthcare.
  • Acknowledgement that HIPAA generally does not protect the privacy or security of health information accessed through or stored on personal cell phones or tablets and the suggestion of steps that can be taken to increase the privacy of that information.

As providers struggle to understand this new and quickly evolving legal landscape, please know that Campanella Law Office stands with patients and providers in protecting privacy rights and is ready to support patients and providers in continuing to safeguard access to comprehensive health care.

If you are an individual who believes your privacy has been violated you can file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.  If you are a provider who has questions about your legal obligations to disclose information concerning abortion or other reproductive health care, Contact Us

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