The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has released a new platform to provide mobile health developers (and any other interested stakeholders) a sounding board to ask questions, voice concerns, and “spitball” ideas about HIPAA and its interplay in the Health IT space. Users can submit questions and comments on the site, on which other viewers can comment and vote (similar to “liking” a timeline post on Facebook). All comments remain anonymous and OCR has stated specifically that they will not be used as the basis of enforcement actions. Although OCR will not normally respond to these comments, it has said that feedback provided through the platform will be used to inform the development of future guidance.
This is yet another attempt by OCR to make a complex legal regime more accessible to the public (see HERE for more user-friendly HIPAA “how-tos” from OCR). This could be especially important in the emerging market for health app development where HIPAA is key to partnering with end users, but where not much guidance exists. This platform could also be useful not just for developers, but for others keeping tabs on implications of HIPAA more broadly across the health industry.
The platform currently has 6 comments, with several raising concerns over the lack of guidance involving cloud computing. If used as intended, this is exactly the type of feedback that could influence OCR’s next steps. The site is still new and only time will tell if it becomes the collaborative idea hub that OCR envisions. If so, perhaps similar platforms will begin to emerge in other areas ruled by complex bodies of law.