HIPAA Omnibus Rule 2013: New Notice of Privacy Practices requirements

In the past, my organization posted a Notice of Privacy Practices on our website and distributed it to patients, but I'm unsure what changes we should make to that documentation based on the HIPAA Omnibus Rule coming into effect. Could you explain any new Notice of Privacy Practices requirements, and what changes companies need to make to NPP documentation and distribution?

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The Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP) is an important component of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations. This notice, required by HIPAA's Privacy Rule, must explain the uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI) by an organization. The HIPAA Omnibus Rule 2013 does contain some changes to the regulations surrounding the NPP, including what must be contained in the notice and how revisions to the NPP may be communicated online.

From a content perspective, the NPP must be revised to include a description of the uses of PHI that require an explicit authorization from patients. These include the disclosure of psychotherapy notes, the use of PHI for marketing purposes and the sale of PHI by the covered entity. In cases where marketing or a sale includes financial renumeration, the authorization must state that the covered entity is being compensated for the disclosure. Additionally, any organization that intends to contact patients for fundraising purposes must inform them in its NPP, including giving them the opportunity to opt out of such communications. In addition to these changes, providers and health plans must also include details about both patients' rights and relevant breach notification requirements, which may vary based upon applicable state laws.

Finally, covered entities must continue to distribute copies of the current NPP to patients and alert them of any revisions. Health plans that use their websites to distribute an NPP must post any material changes to the documentation on their sites by the effective date of the change, and must include information about the change in their next annual mailing to plan participants.

This was first published in January 2014

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