In a letter to HHS, the ADA is calling for covered dental providers to be given more time for implementation given the current COVID-19 public health emergency. 

The American Dental Association (ADA) is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to consider the burdens of regulatory changes to the HIPAA Privacy Rule would impose on covered dental providers, particularly smaller covered providers. 

In a letter to the OCR acting director, ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, DDS, MD, and ADA Executive Director Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, DMD, MPH, point out that some of the proposed changes could “inconvenience patients, take time away from patient care, disrupt schedules, or overburden dental offices. 

The proposed changes include a 15-day timeframe for responding to patient requests for access; as well as a proposal to permit patients to access, copy, and photograph their protected health information at the time of their appointments; and a proposed requirement that covered providers develop fee schedules for providing copies of protected health information. Additionally, covered entities with websites would be required to post these schedules on their websites. 

The ADA considers these proposed changes “overly burdensome for covered providers at any time, but particularly now when patients and dentists are still dealing with the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The Association points out that even when the public health emergency is no longer in effect, patients and dentists will still face a backlog of delayed care for a period of time and that patient care should therefore be the priority. 

The ADA is urging OCR to make no chances to the HIPAA Privacy Rule access provisions until “such time as large and small dental practices will not struggle to find the time and staff resources to understand the changes and develop and implement modifications to the dental practice’s HIPAA policies and procedures.” The Association is asking that dental providers be given no less than 365 days in advance of any enforcement date to make appropriate revisions, implement changes, and train workforce members. Currently, the proposed effective date is 60 days after publication of the final rule, and the compliance date is 180 days after the effective date.