Can a doctor or pharmacy be paid to make a prescription refill reminder without a prior authorization under the HIPAA Privacy Rule?
Yes. It is not marketing for a doctor to make a prescription refill reminder even if a third party pays for the communication. The prescription refill reminder is considered treatment. The communication is therefore excluded from the definition of marketing and does not require a prior authorization. Similarly, it is not marketing when a doctor or pharmacy is paid by a pharmaceutical company to recommend an alternative medication to patients. Communications about alternative treatments are excluded from the definition of marketing and do not require a prior authorization. The simple receipt of remuneration does not transform a treatment communication into a commercial promotion of a product or service.
Furthermore, covered entities may use a legitimate business associate to assist them in making such permissible communications. For instance, if a pharmacist that has been paid by a third party contracts with a mail house to send out prescription refill reminders to the pharmacist’s patients, neither the mail house nor the pharmacist needs a prior authorization. However, a covered entity would require an authorization if it sold protected health information to a third party for the third party’s marketing purposes.
Date Created: 12/20/2002