Hundreds of hospitals have mandated that their employees provide proof of vaccination. Other hospitals have begun to request hospital visitors show evidence they’ve been inoculated. Here’s why these do not violate HIPAA rules, according to an Aug. 4 Insider report.

Seven things to know:

1. Some Americans have expressed concerns that being asked to provide proof of vaccination status violates HIPAA. However, what HIPAA protects is very narrow. In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed HIPAA into law. The law prevents certain people and organizations, including healthcare providers, insurers and health data clearinghouses, from sharing a patient’s medical records without their explicit consent.

2. HIPAA would not be violated if a hospital staff member requests to see a visitor’s vaccination status because HIPAA doesn’t protect medical information that a patient, employee or hospital visitor shares about themselves. HIPAA only applies to how covered entities protect the health information they receive.

3. What are HIPAA violations? Disclosing patients’, employees’ or visitors’ protected health information to outside entities is a HIPAA violation. Failing to implement reasonable safeguards to protect health information is also a HIPAA violation.

4. “Once they get the data, they have to protect it,” Jeff Drummond, a healthcare regulatory lawyer who has been working with HIPAA for nearly 20 years, told Dallas-based WFAA. “They have to notify you if there’s a breach, but other than that, that’s the end of their obligation under either HIPAA or Texas state law.”

5. Misinformation surrounding HIPAA is sometimes perpetuated when public officials decline to share their vaccination status and cite HIPAA as the reason why. In July, when reporters asked Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., if she was vaccinated, she said the question was a violation to her HIPAA rights, Insider reported.

6. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was asked to disclose his vaccination status during a press conference. He said “I don’t necessarily think that’s exactly important. … I think that’s HIPAA.”

7. These claims perpetuate misinformation surrounding anti-vaccine narratives, Tara Kirk Sell, PhD, an assistant professor of health security at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The New York Times. “The misinterpretation of what it’s all about just adds to this firestorm of anti-vaccine sentiment.”

This post, Is asking hospital visitors for proof of vaccines a HIPAA violation? 7 things to know, was first shared on Becker’s Hospital Review on August 10, 2021.

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