Nextgov: ‘All Options Are on the Table,’ HHS Privacy Official Doubles Down on Data Protection

The Office of Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working alongside doctors, insurance agencies and other covered providers to strengthen patient privacy in the aftermath of the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Speaking with Nextgov, OCR Director Melanie Fontes Rainer discussed the agency’s ongoing work to ensure reproductive health data is protected, as concerns mount over that data potentially being used by law enforcement to prosecute individuals seeking an abortion…

Fontes Rainer noted that existing regulations, namely the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, support protecting sensitive health data disclosure from law enforcement and other third party entities. However, HIPAA rules do not cover all areas where that data can be stored.

“HIPAA rules generally did not protect privacy or security of individuals’ health information when it’s accessed or stored on personal cell phones and tablets,” she said. In light of this loophole, Fontes Rainer pointed to recent guidance her office wrote surrounding applicable HIPAA protections to reproductive information and data stored on mobile devices…

As the protected health data landscape grows to encompass not only reproductive health care information but other sensitive protected health information, Fontes Rainer said that her office will focus on federal civil rights laws independent of individual state data privacy and health care laws… Read the full article here.

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