2. Minimum Use Requirement

HIPAA requires that care providers use only the minimum amount of information needed to give care to their clients. Remember that reading patient or client medical records casually or just to satisfy curiosity is a breach of HIPAA and can lead to reprimand or job loss.

Always ask yourself: what is the least amount of information I need to know to do my job. Minimum use also applies to providing information to someone authorized to receive it.

Again ask yourself, what is the least amount of information I need to provide to answer the request?

Ensuring policies and procedures are developed and implemented to restrict the uses and disclosures of PHI is an important element of HIPAA compliance. If health information is used for purposes not permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule or is deliberately disclosed to individuals unauthorized to receive the information, there are possible penalties for the covered entity or individual responsible.
HIPAA permits protected health information to be used for healthcare operations, treatment purposes, and in connection with payment for healthcare services. Information may be disclosed to third parties for those purposes, provided an appropriate relationship exists between the disclosing covered entity and the recipient covered entity or business associate. A covered entity can only share PHI with another
covered entity if the recipient has previously or currently has a treatment relationship with the patient and the PHI relates to that relationship. In the case of a disclosure to a business associate, a business associate agreement must have been obtained. In all cases, the minimum necessary standard applies. Disclosures must be restricted to the minimum necessary information that will allow the recipient to accomplish the intended purpose of use.

The minimum necessary standard, a key protection of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, is derived from confidentiality codes and practices in common use today. It is based on sound current practice that protected health information should not be used or disclosed when it is not necessary to satisfy a particular purpose or carry out a function. The minimum necessary standard requires covered entities to evaluate their practices and enhance safeguards as needed to limit unnecessary or inappropriate access to and disclosure of protected health information. The Privacy Rule’s requirements for minimum necessary are designed to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the various circumstances of any covered entity.

How the Rule Works The Privacy Rule generally requires covered entities to take reasonable steps to limit the use or disclosure of, and requests for, protected health information to the minimum necessary to accomplish the intended purpose.

Exceptions to the HIPAA Minimum Necessary Standard?

1.Disclosures to or requests by a health care provider for treatment purposes.

2.Disclosures to the individual who is the subject of the information.

3.Uses or disclosures made pursuant to an individual’s authorization.

4.Uses or disclosures required for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Administrative Simplification Rules.

5.Disclosures to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) when disclosure of information is required under the Privacy Rule for enforcement purposes.

6.Uses or disclosures that are required by other law.

Does HIPAA Prohibit All Other Uses of PHI?
HIPAA does not prohibit the use of PHI for all other purposes. PHI can be used for marketing purposes, can be provided to research organizations, and can even be sold by a healthcare organization. However, prior to any use or disclosure of health information that is not expressly permitted by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, one of two steps must be taken:

  1. A HIPAA authorization must be obtained from a patient, in writing, permitting the covered entity or business associate to use the data for a specific purpose not otherwise permitted under HIPAA.
  2. The health information must be stripped of all information that allow a patient to be identified.