OCR Issues Guidance Methods For De-Identification Of PHI Under HIPAA

Author:Ms Julie Lappas
Profession:Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released guidance on the methods that covered entities and business associates can use to de-identify protected health information (PHI) in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule.  The guidance, which was required by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, provides practical information regarding what constitutes de-identified information, how de-identified information is created, and how to satisfy the Privacy Rule's expert determination and safe harbor standards for de-identification.

Under the Privacy Rule, de-identified health information is not considered PHI.  As a result, covered entities and business associates may use or disclose de-identified health information without violating the Privacy Rule.  The Privacy Rule provides two methods by which health information can be de-identified:  the "expert determination" standard and the "safe harbor" standard.  The newly released guidance offers direction on how to meet these standards, and includes answers to frequently asked questions such as:

Who is an "expert" for the...

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