The End of PHE: What That Means for You Regarding HIPAA
As of April 10th, 2023, the Biden Administration has announced that the end of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) Covid-19 will be on May 11th ,2023. Included in the end of the PHE, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has stated that the Notifications of HIPAA Enforcement Discretion will also end on My 11th, 2023. Previously, the Administration guaranteed a 90-day warning for providers to come into compliance to HIPAA rules relating to telehealth services. This 90-day grace period is meant to help avoid “creat[ing] wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” (HHS Press Office). OCR said it would continue to exercise its enforcement discretion and not impose penalties on covered providers for noncompliance during the 90- day transition period, ending on August 9th,2023.
During the public health emergency, providers did not have to be licensed in the state where the patient was located, they were allowed to treat patients in other states via telecommunication. Under the PHE, non-HIPAA compliant platforms were allowed if they were not public facing. Both flexibilities are coming to an end.
In 2020, when the PHE was first declared, the federal government changed or halted many of its rules and regulations on how care is delivered. During the PHE, rules were relaxed regarding staff training in nursing home facilities. There was also easier virtual access to prescribe medications pertinent in treatment relating to addiction.
In hospitals, the broader use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants was implemented to ensure there were enough healthcare workers to treat patients. Another hospital exception that will be terminated once the PHE ends is “CMS allowing hospitals to make broader use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants when caring for Medicare patients. New physicians not yet credentialed to work at a particular hospital — for example, because governing bodies lacked time to conduct their reviews — could nonetheless practice there,” (Pradhan, Rachana – CBS News). Regarding monitoring the disease, because the Department of Health and Human Services will no longer be able to require labs to report Covid-19 testing data, the way local and state public health departments monitor the spread of disease will change. It is expected that while at-home test kits will no longer be free, and hospitals will most likely provide Covid-19 data less frequently, that surveillance will need to be strategized.
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