Confusion abounds regarding the sharing of protected patient information (PPI) of a Covid-19 patient to first responders.  As EMS providers, fire departments, and police officers work in the field managing public emergencies, exposures should be expected and anticipated.  Organizational mitigation efforts have hinged on identifying “actual” Covid-19 patients, primarily through hospital testing after patient delivery.  However, the exchange of information from hospital to first response organization has been hampered in many instances due to HIPAA compliance concerns. Hospitals and EMS/Fire understand the process of information transfer related to potential exposures under the Ryan White Act, but the current situation is a different animal. 

The HHS issued this memo clarifying this information transfer, and ease the concerns of those covered by the HIPAA rules.  The takeaway from the memo, and the explanatory article from Ayanna Alexander at Bloomberg Law  makes clear the PPI may be shared so long as one of the conditions for sharing PPI is met. As listed in the HHS memo, a good faith belief the disclosure is “necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of a person or the public” may justify the disclosure. The other big takeaway is this—CHECK YOUR STATE LAW.  Laws vary from state to state as they relate to privacy, confidential data, mandatory disclosure, and emergency declarations.   Continue Reading HHS Offers Clarity for First Responders — Yes, Hospitals Can Provide Info on Covid 19 Exposed Patients