The American Hospital Association (AHA) has called on Congress to urge the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to withdraw its rule concerning the use of online tracking tools. The AHA argues that this rule contradicts existing HIPAA regulations and has the potential to cause harm to both patients and public health.
The AHA, speaking on behalf of its 5,000 healthcare organization members and over two million healthcare professionals, believes that the current HIPAA rules provide an effective framework for sharing patients’ protected health information. The organization does not see the need for major revisions to HIPAA at this time. However, the AHA has identified two specific issues that require attention: OCR’s December rule on online tracking tools and state privacy regulations that add complexity to HIPAA compliance.
In response to the December rule, the AHA states that it prevents healthcare organizations from using online tracking tools to collect information about how users interact with regulated entities’ websites. The organization argues that this rule is both flawed and harmful, hindering hospitals’ ability to share non-private healthcare information with the public.
By restricting the use of third-party technologies like Google Analytics and YouTube, hospitals and health systems are unable to gather crucial information about how patients navigate their websites or gauge community concerns regarding specific medical conditions. Additionally, organizations will be limited in their ability to provide location-based services and share health-related videos with their communities.
If the OCR’s rule stands, hospitals and health systems may face enforcement actions, class-action lawsuits, or the loss of existing website investments. Furthermore, third parties may refuse to sign business associate agreements, compromising the protection of patient information.
The AHA also advocates for federal preemption of HIPAA requirements to ensure a uniform nationwide standard for patient privacy and security. The current patchwork of state and federal privacy regulations poses significant challenges for providers attempting to coordinate patient care and maintain population health.
In summary, the AHA is urging Congress to intervene and request that the OCR withdraw its rule on online tracking tools, as it believes this rule contradicts HIPAA regulations and has negative implications for patient care and public health.
Source: American Hospital Association (AHA) without URL