Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information. Final Privacy Rule Preamble.. Section 164.508(d) - Authorizations Requested by a Covered Entity for Its Own Uses and Disclosures

12/28/2000

We proposed to require covered entities to include additional elements in authorizations initiated by the covered entity. Before a covered entity could use or disclose protected health information of an individual pursuant to a request the covered entity made, we proposed to require the entity to obtain an authorization containing the minimum elements described above and the following additional elements: except for authorizations requested for clinical trials, a statement that the entity will not condition treatment or payment on the individual's authorization; a description of the purpose of the requested use or disclosure; a statement that the individual may inspect or copy the information to be used or disclosed and may refuse to sign the authorization; and, if the use or disclosure of the requested information will result in financial gain to the entity, a statement that such gain will result.

We additionally proposed to require covered entities, when requesting an individual's authorization, to request only the minimum amount of information necessary to accomplish the purpose for which the request was made. We also proposed to require covered entities to provide the individual with a copy of the executed authorization.

We retain the proposed approach, but apply these additional requirements when the covered entity requests the individual's authorization for the entity's own use or disclosure of protected health information maintained by the covered entity itself. For example, a health plan may ask individuals to authorize the plan to disclose protected health information to a subsidiary to market life insurance to the individual. A pharmaceutical company may also ask a covered provider to recruit patients for drug research; if the covered provider asks patients to sign an authorization for the provider to disclose protected health information to the pharmaceutical company for this research, this is also an authorization requested by a covered entity for disclosure of protected health information maintained by the covered entity. When covered entities initiate the authorization by asking individuals to authorize the entity to use or disclose protected health information that the entity maintains, the authorization must include all of the elements required above as well as several additional elements.

Authorizations requested by covered entities for the covered entity's own use or disclosure of protected health information must state, as applicable under § 164.508(b)(4), that the covered entity will not condition treatment, payment, enrollment, or eligibility on the individual's authorization for the use or disclosure. For example, if a health plan asks an individual to sign an authorization for the health plan to disclose protected health information to a non-profit advocacy group for the advocacy group's fundraising purposes, the authorization must contain a statement that the health plan will not condition treatment, payment, enrollment in the health plan, or eligibility for benefits on the individual providing the authorization.

Authorizations requested by covered entities for their own uses and disclosures of protected health information must also identify each purpose for which the information is to be used or disclosed. The required statement of purpose(s) must provide individuals with the facts they need to make an informed decision whether to allow release of the information. We prohibit the use of broad or blanket authorizations requesting the use or disclosure of protected health information for a wide range of unspecified purposes. Both the information that is to be used or disclosed and the specific purpose(s) for such uses or disclosures must be stated in the authorization.

Authorizations requested by covered entities for their own uses and disclosures must also advise individuals of certain rights available to them under this rule. The authorization must state that the individual may inspect or copy the information to be used or disclosed as provided in § 164.524 regarding access for inspection and copying and that the individual may refuse to sign the authorization.

We alter the proposed requirements with respect to authorizations for which the covered entity will receive financial gain. When the covered entity initiates the authorization and the covered entity will receive direct or indirect remuneration from a third party (rather than financial gain, as proposed) in exchange for using or disclosing the protected health information, the authorization must include a statement that such remuneration will result. For example, a health plan may wish to sell or rent its enrollee mailing list or a pharmaceutical company may offer a covered provider a discount on its products if the provider obtains authorization to disclose the demographic information of patients with certain diagnoses so that the company can market new drugs to them directly. In each case, the covered entity must obtain the individual's authorization, and the authorization must include a statement that the covered entity will receive remuneration.

In § 164.508(d)(2), we continue to require a covered entity that requests an authorization for its own use or disclosure of protected health information to provide the individual with a copy of the signed authorization. While we eliminate from this section the provision requiring covered entities to obtain authorization for use or disclosure of the minimum necessary protected health information, § 164.514(d)(4) requires covered entities to request only the minimum necessary protected health information to accomplish the purpose for which the request is made. This requirement applies to these authorizations, as well as other requests.