Is a covered entity responsible if it complies with an individual’s access request to receive PHI in an unsecure manner (e.g., unencrypted e-mail) and the information is intercepted while in transit?

This guidance remains in effect only to the extent that it is consistent with the court’s order in Ciox Health, LLC v. Azar, No. 18-cv-0040 (D.D.C. January 23, 2020), which may be found at More information about the order is available at Any provision within this guidance that has been vacated by the Ciox Health decision is rescinded.

No. While covered entities are responsible for adopting reasonable safeguards in implementing the individual’s request (e.g., correctly entering the e-mail address), covered entities are not responsible for a disclosure of PHI while in transmission to the individual based on the individual’s access request to receive the PHI in an unsecure manner (assuming the individual was warned of and accepted the risks associated with the unsecure transmission). This includes breach notification obligations and liability for disclosures that occur in transit. Further, covered entities are not responsible for safeguarding the information once delivered to the individual. Covered entities are responsible for breach notification for unsecured transmissions and may be liable for impermissible disclosures of PHI that occur in all contexts except when fulfilling an individual’s right of access under 45 CFR 164.524 to receive his or her PHI or direct the PHI to a third party in an unsecure manner.

Posted in: HIPAA
Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on January 31, 2020