COVID-19: Your privacy matters to us

The single most important thing you can do to help protect privacy during the COVID-19 pandemic? Think before posting to social media.

With all the COVID-19 news, you may have missed an important update to health care privacy rules. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights relaxed certain HIPAA laws in response to the pandemic.

But don’t worry — we are still as committed as ever to protecting your privacy!

HHS’s changes to the rules are important during a public health crisis like COVID-19, and we are following their guidance. The relaxed rules allow us to:

  • More easily offer services to more people. For example, instead of being required to use a special secure system for video visits, the change in the rules allows us to use apps like Skype or FaceTime to see patients.
  • Report cases of COVID-19 to government organizations that are tracking the spread.
  • Disclose someone’s COVID-19 status to people who have been in contact with them and may be at risk because of it — family members and friends, and also first responders and other care providers.

To see a full list of how the rules are being applied, you can read the original notice from HHS.

You can help protect privacy

The single most important thing you can do to help protect privacy? Think before posting to social media.

  • Don’t speculate or post rumors about other people’s health status  —  about COVID-19 or any other health condition for that matter. Aside from being rude, it can also cause a lot of pain or concern for their loved ones. In the case of COVID-19, it may even divert medical resources away from people who need them.
  • Don’t post pictures when you visit a medical facility if they show other patients or computer screens that may have other people’s information on them.
  • Don’t post online about your health at all if you don’t want your health information to be public. While you may think the group or conversation is private, anyone can take screen shots and share them anywhere.