Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule allow covered entities participating in electronic health information exchange with a health information organization (HIO) to establish a common set of safeguards?
Yes. The Privacy Rule requires a covered entity to have in place appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to protect the privacy of protected health information (PHI), including reasonable safeguards to protect against any intentional or unintentional use or disclosure in violation of the Privacy Rule. See 45 C.F.R. § 164.530(c). Each covered entity can evaluate its own business functions and needs, the types and amounts of PHI it collects, uses, and discloses, size, and business risks to determine adequate safeguards for its particular circumstances.
With respect to electronic health information exchange, the Privacy Rule would allow covered entities participating in an exchange with a HIO to agree on a common set of privacy safeguards that are appropriate to the risks associated with exchanging PHI to and through the HIO. In addition, as a requirement of participation in the electronic health information exchange with the HIO, these commonly agreed to safeguards also could be extended to other participants, even if they are not covered entities. A common or consistent set of standards applied to the HIO and its participants may help not only to facilitate the efficient exchange of information, but also to foster trust among both participants and individuals.