The Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights has published a proposed rule to govern the accounting of disclosures of protected health information.

The rule is mandated under the HITECH Act, which has a number of provisions to strengthen the HIPAA privacy and security rules. The proposed disclosure rule, available here and being published May 31 in the Federal Register, would modify the privacy rule.

The proposed rule would require covered entities and business associates to account for disclosures of information in electronic health records for treatment, payment and health care operations. OCR also proposes to expand the accounting provision within HITECH to provide the right of individuals to receive an access report that indicates who has accessed electronic PHI in a designated record set.

"These two rights, to an accounting of disclosures and to an access report, would be distinct but complementary," according to the proposed rule. "The right to an access report would provide information on who has accessed electronic protected health information in a designated record set (including access for purposes of treatment, payment and health care operations), while the right to an accounting would provide additional information about the disclosure of designated record set information (whether hard copy or electronic) to persons outside the covered entity and its business associates for certain purposes (e.g., law enforcement, judicial hearings, public health investigations.)"

OCR contends the rights will provide information of value to individuals while "placing a reasonable burden on covered entities and business associates."

--Joseph Goedert


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