How may the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s requirements for verification of identity and authority be met in an electronic health information exchange environment?
The Privacy Rule requires covered entities to verify the identity and authority of a person requesting protected health information (PHI), if not known to the covered entity. See 45 C.F.R. § 164.514(h). The Privacy Rule allows for verification in most instances in either oral or written form, although verification does require written documentation when such documentation is a condition of the disclosure.
The Privacy Rule generally does not include specific or technical verification requirements and thus, can flexibly be applied to an electronic health information exchange environment in a manner that best supports the needs of the exchange participants and the health information organization (HIO). For example, in an electronic health information exchange environment:
- Participants can agree by contract or otherwise to keep current and provide to the HIO a list of authorized persons so the HIO can appropriately authenticate each user of the network.
- For persons claiming to be government officials, proof of government status may be provided by having a legitimate government e-mail extension (e.g., xxx.gov).
- Documentation required for certain uses and disclosures may be provided in electronic form, such as scanned images or pdf files.
- Documentation requiring signatures may be provided as a scanned image of the signed documentation or as an electronic document with an electronic signature, to the extent the electronic signature is valid under applicable law.