The HIPAA Minimum Necessary Standard requires all HIPAA covered entities and business associates to make reasonable efforts, as per the Standards of Privacy of individually identifiable health information (Privacy Rule), to limit the release of PHI to the minimum standard information necessary to accomplish the intended purpose of particular use, disclosure, or request.
In simpler terms, the standard addresses the use and disclosure of PHI that is permitted under the Privacy Rule, including the accessibility of ePHI by healthcare professionals and disclosures to business associates and other covered entities. The standard also applies when other HIPAA covered entities request access to protected health information (PHI).
The Standard pertains to all forms of PHI, including spreadsheets, printed images and films, physical documents, electronic protected health information (ePHI), including information stored on tapes and other media, and information that is communicated orally. There is a certain amount of flexibility in the standard as covered entities have the authority to determine the level of implementation.
An example would be a business associate accessing protected health information (PHI) to perform a service on behalf of a covered entity. The covered entity must ensure that the information disclosed to the business associate is the minimum required and sufficient for the business associate to perform a task. It is highly unlikely that those businesses will require access to the entire medical histories, therefore, it is not needed to disclose full information.
The HIPAA “Minimum Necessary” standard applies to most uses and disclosures of PHI, but there are six exceptions as detailed below.
- Healthcare providers making requests for PHI to provide treatment to a patient
- Requests from patients for copies of their own medical records
- Requests for PHI when there is a valid authorization
- Requests for PHI that are required for compliance with the HIPAA Administrative Simplifications Rules
- Requests for disclosure of PHI by the Department of Health and Human Services required for the enforcement of compliance with HIPAA Rules under 45 CFR Part 160 Subpart C
- Requests for PHI that are otherwise required by law
To comply with the minimum, necessary standard covered entities should develop appropriate policies and procedures addressing the standard. Here is where HIPAA Ready can come in to play where organizations can easily implement and distribute the policies throughout their organization using this robust cloud software application.