HIPAA Alert: Updated Guidance from HHS Re: Disclosure of COVID-19 Status to First Responders

Today the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance on the disclosure of the COVID-19 status of a patient to law enforcement, paramedics, other first responders and public health authorities.

In the guidance, the OCR recognizes that due to the current national public health emergency, first responders need access to real time infection information to both treat their patients and protect themselves. As such, the guidance clarifies that institutions may disclose PHI without a patient’s authorization in those circumstances. However, the OCR reminds practitioners and institutions that they must make reasonable efforts to limit the information disclosed to the “minimum necessary” to accomplish the purpose of the disclosure.