DSHS: COVID-19 Patients Can Be Identified to First RespondersPress Release
AUSTIN, TX – First responders across Texas will now have access to the names and identifying information of individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
According to KXAN, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule allows the information to be shared without the patient’s authorization. The measure is intended to protect first responders and the information will be kept as long as the case is considered active.
“In counties where the DSHS regional office acts as the local health department, dispatch is being notified,” a DSHS spokesperson wrote to local media in an email.
Patient authorization is not required in these circumstances:
- When the disclosure is needed to provide treatment
- When such notification is required by law
- To notify a public health authority in order to prevent or control spread of disease
- When first responders may be at risk of infection
- When the disclosure of PHI to first responders is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health and safety of a person or the public
- When responding to a request for PHI by a correctional institution or law enforcement official having lawful custody of an inmate or other individual
Privacy concerns have been expresses by several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Not only is it not sound policy, it is not focused on providing the protective gear that officers need,” said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the ACLU of Tennessee.
Get more stories like this by signing up for our daily newsletter, The LIVE! Daily.