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Privacy Tool released in the US for Emergency Preparedness and Patients with Disabilities

Posted Oct 30 2008 3:21pm

This is a very interesting tool that has been developed in the US to assist with decision making for access to health information in emergency situations e.g. another hurricane Katrina. Consistent with the HIPAA privacy rules, this tool assists multiple providers in dealing with these complex issues.

What I find unique is the simplicity of the tool. Although not exactly transferable to Canada, this is an easy to use format that can be quickly and easily accessed to make complex decisions based on need. It is an example of how to very effectively leverage the Internet and web based decision support.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today published a new Web-based interactive decision tool designed to assist emergency preparedness and recovery planners in determining how to access and use health information about persons with disabilities consistent with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule. “Being able to coordinate health information appropriately and in advance will help save lives,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said. “This new tool strengthens America’s ability to better prepare for emergencies such as manmade and natural disasters.” The tool will guide emergency preparedness and recovery planners through a series of questions regarding how the HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to a particular disclosure. By helping users focus on the source of the information being disclosed, to whom it is being disclosed, and for what purpose, users will better meet the needs of the elderly or persons with disabilities in the event of an evacuation. While the tool’s initial purpose focused on emergency planning for persons with disabilities, it is applicable to most emergency planning efforts. The intended audiences include covered entities as well as emergency preparedness and recovery planners at the local, state and federal levels.

To access the tool, go to: HHS Office for Civil Rights - HIPAA Privacy Tool.

If you would like to comment on this tool or the applicability in Canada, please click on the 'Comments' link

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