On May 5, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued guidance affirming the HIPAA Privacy Rule restrictions on disclosures of protected health information (PHI) to the media. In the guidance, OCR reminded covered health providers that HIPAA does not permit them to give the media, including film crews, access to any areas of their facilities where patients’ PHI will be accessible in any form without first obtaining a written HIPAA authorization from each patient whose PHI would be accessible to the media. Providers may not require a patient to sign a HIPAA authorization as a condition of receiving treatment.
OCR further asserted that attempts to obscure a patient’s identity, such as blurring his or her face, do not remove the obligation to secure a HIPAA authorization prior to recording. In addition to obtaining HIPAA authorization from all patients whose PHI will be accessible to the media, providers must implement safeguards to prevent unauthorized disclosures of PHI, for example, by utilizing privacy screens on facility computers.
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