Exceptions to HIPAA rules on refill reminders
Updated Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules went into effect Sept. 23. More recently, the government issued guidance about exceptions to these rules related to electronic refill reminders.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a fact sheet and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). The fact sheet and FAQs explain how marketing exceptions apply to electronic refill reminders and other e-communications about drugs or biologics currently being prescribed for patients. The goal, according to the HHS, is "to ensure essential healthcare communications are not impeded."
The HHS addresses communications that fall within the exception, including:
- Electronic refill reminders
- Information about generic equivalents to currently prescribed medications
- Communication that encourages compliance with medication directions
- Information about self-administered drugs for those who take them.
Communications that do not fall within the exception include:
- Communication about new formulations similar to current prescriptions
- Information about related "adjunctive" drugs
- Messages encouraging patients to switch from a prescribed medication to an alternative medication.
The HHS also addresses the types of third-party payments considered reasonable under the statute and regulations for communications related to these payments.
To give health care practitioners a chance to review the new guidance, the HHS is delaying enforcement of restrictions on refill reminders and similar communications for 45 days past the Sept. 23 update, or until Nov. 7, 2013.