Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule require a business associate to provide individuals with access to their protected health information or an accounting of disclosures, or an opportunity to amend protected health information?
The Privacy Rule regulates covered entities, not business associates. The Rule requires covered entities to include specific provisions in agreements with business associates to safeguard protected health information, and addresses how covered entities may share this information with business associates. Covered entities are responsible for fulfilling Privacy Rule requirements with respect to individual rights, including the rights of access, amendment, and accounting, as provided for by 45 CFR 164.524, 164.526, and 164.528. With limited exceptions, a covered entity is required to provide an individual access to his or her protected health information in a designated record set. This includes information in a designated record set of a business associate, unless the information held by the business associate merely duplicates the information maintained by the covered entity. Therefore, the Rule requires covered entities to specify in the business associate contract that the business associate must make such protected health information available if and when needed by the covered entity to provide an individual with access to the information. However, the Privacy Rule does not prevent the parties from agreeing through the business associate contract that the business associate will provide access to individuals, as may be appropriate where the business associate is the only holder of the designated record set, or part thereof.
Under 45 CFR 164.526, a covered entity must amend protected health information about an individual in a designated record set, including any designated record sets (or copies thereof) held by a business associate. Therefore, the Rule requires covered entities to specify in the business associate contract that the business associate must amend protected health information in such records (or copies) when requested by the covered entity. The covered entity itself is responsible for addressing requests from individuals for amendment and coordinating such requests with its business associate. However, the Privacy Rule also does not prevent the parties from agreeing through the contract that the business associate will receive and address requests for amendment on behalf of the covered entity.
Under 45 CFR 164.528, the Privacy Rule requires a covered entity to provide an accounting of certain disclosures, including certain disclosures by its business associate, to the individual upon request. The business associate contract must provide that the business associate will make such information available to the covered entity in order for the covered entity to fulfill its obligation to the individual. As with access and amendment, the parties can agree through the business associate contract that the business associate will provide the accounting to individuals, as may be appropriate given the protected health information held by, and the functions of, the business associate.