Waived HIPAA Penalties for Good Faith Operation of COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Sites

The HHS has released a Notice of Enforcement Discretion that is applicable to healthcare organizations and business associates that get involved in the operations of COVID-19 community-based testing areas.

According to the terms of the Notice of Enforcement discretion, sanctions and penalties will not be imposed by the HHS if associated with good faith participation in COVID-19 community-based testing area operations. The Notice of Enforcement discretion is effective starting March 13, 2020 and will continue throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency or until the declaration of the Secretary of the HHS that the public health emergency is finished.

The objective of the notice is to assist pharmacies, healthcare organizations, and their business associates in giving COVID-19 testing services including specimen collection at specific walk-up or drive-in facilities, with no risk of getting a financial penalty for not complying with HIPAA Rules.

Even with the issuance of the Notice of Enforcement Discretion, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights is telling covered entities along with their business associates to make sure to implement reasonable safety measures to keep safe the privacy of users of the service, avoid the unintentional PHI exposure or disclosure to unauthorized people.

Privacy controls including canopies and barriers need to be employed to isolate the testing area to secure the privacy of service users and there ought to be a buffer zone to keep the public from watching persons while getting tested.

Social distancing protocols should be enforced to minimize the possibility of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Patients must be separated by a distance of no less than 6 feet. The social distancing aims to help make sure that the dialogue between the CBTS staff and the patient will not be overheard. OCR additionally advises the putting up of posters that prohibit film capturing at testing areas.

A Notice of Privacy Practices must likewise be put up in an area where visitors can easily read it. The NPP ought to be published on the web as well. The printed notice should include the details on how to view the NPP online.

Uses and disclosures of PHI ought to be restricted to the minimum required amount to accomplish the objective for which the data is disclosed, besides when disclosing PHI for the purpose of treatment.

The Notice of Enforcement Discretion is available for viewing on this page.

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Christine Garcia is the staff writer on Calculated HIPAA. Christine has several years experience in writing about healthcare sector issues with a focus on the compliance and cybersecurity issues. Christine has developed in-depth knowledge of HIPAA regulations. You can contact Christine at [email protected]. You can follow Christine on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChrisCalHIPAA