Research is covered under HIPAA and, for the most part, these organizations have to comply. Research is not considered treatment, payment or operations (TPO) under HIPAA like many other day-to-day health care issues. It's likely researchers can work as business associates, so both the research organization and the covered entity they are dealing with need to enter into contract negotiations since both are liable. There are several issues that must be considered such as obtaining authorization for use or disclosure of protected health information (PHI), using unidentified PHI and/or limited data sets, etc. This is definitely an area where researchers need to consult with a HIPAA consultant or attorney to see exactly how their PHI usage needs to be handled.
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