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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality

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When and what information can a covered entity use or disclose PHI without a patient's authorization?

A covered entity, such as a health care provider may not use or disclose PHI without an individual's written authorization, except if permitted or required by the Privacy Rule.  There are a few instances in which a covered entity can use or disclose an individual's PHI without obtaining authorization. 


  • To the Individual (unless required for access or accounting of disclosures);
  • Treatment, Payment, and Health Care Operations;
  • Opportunity to Agree or Object;
  • Incident to an otherwise permitted use and disclosure;
  • Public Interest and Benefit Activities; and
  • Limited Dataset for the purposes of research, public health or health care operations.


  • To individuals (or their personal representatives) specifically when they request access to, or an accounting of disclosures of, their protected health information; and
  • To HHS when it is undertaking a compliance investigation or review or enforcement action.

Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule: Authorized Uses and Disclosures  - Developed by the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2003).  This site provides a summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

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