When You Update Your Notice of Privacy Practices by September 23, 2013, to Comply with the Omnibus Rule, Must You Mail Copies to Your Patients? HIPAA & HITECH Act Blog by Jonathan P. Tomes


I have been asked repeatedly whether a covered health care provider must mail a copy of its new Omnibus Rule compliant notice of privacy practices to its existing patients. The answer is no. The Privacy Rule does not require a provider to mail out its revised notice or otherwise notify patients by mail of changes to the notice. Rather, when a covered health care provider with a direct treatment relationship with patients (a treating physician, rather than one who provides related services as ordered by the physician, such as a radiologist) changes the notice, the provider must make the notice available upon request to patients on or after the effective date of the revision, and, if the provider maintains a physical service delivery site, such as a doctor’s office or clinic, the provider must post the revised notice in a clear and prominent location in that office or clinic. See 45 CFR 164.520(c)(2)(iv). In addition, the provider must ensure that the current notice, in effect at that time, is provided to new patients at first service delivery and made available on the provider’s customer service website, if the provider has one. See 45 CFR 164.520(c).

A covered health care provider with a direct treatment relationship with individuals is required to make a good faith effort to obtain an individual’s acknowledgement of receipt of the notice only at the time that the provider first gives the notice to the individual—that is, at first service delivery. See 45 CFR 164.520(c)(2). Thus, the provider does not need to attempt to obtain a receipt even if the provider goes further than HIPAA requires and mails to patients a copy of the notice of privacy practices.

See my August 8, 2013, blog post about changes to the notice of privacy practices as a result of the Omnibus Rule, and if you need a template, you may find a sample revised notice of privacy practices on the Premium Member section of the Veterans Press website.

Again, as a reminder, if you bought the HIPAA Compliance Library that includes my 5th edition of the Compliance Guide to HIPAA and the DHHS Regulations, you received with it a one-year free subscription to the Premium Member section. If you need help setting up your account to access the Premium Member section, please call our marketing director, Patrick R. Head II, toll-free at 855-341-8783 or email him at patrick@veteranspress.com.

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