HHS advised healthcare workers they are allowed to share protected patient information to provide necessary medical care after Hurricane Katrina and are not required to gather patient signatures when sharing information with disaster-relief organizations if obtaining the signatures would hinder the disaster response. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which sets standards for patient privacy, allows information sharing to coordinate care with relief workers and to notify family members or responsible parties of a patient's location, general condition and death. It also allows providers to share information with the police and news media for the purpose of locating or identifying responsible parties and allows healthcare facilities to answer inquiries about whether a patient is at the facility, the patient's location within the facility and general condition, HHS said. Read the HHS advisory. -- by Joseph Conn
HHS issues advisory on Katrina and medical privacy
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