August is National Eye Exam Month, but the first week coincides with another observance for the medical community: National Minority Donor Awareness Week. As the Department of Health and Human Services notes, more than 60 percent of patients on waiting lists for organ donations are minorities. Compared to this, just 42.7 percent of donors are Caucasian.
Among the different minorities on this list, 30 percent are African American, 18.7 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 7 percent are Asian, 1.1 percent are Native Americans or Alaskans, and .5 percent are Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders. An additional .5 percent identify as multiracial. The data is accurate as of May 6, 2015.
In preparation for this week, health organizations may want to research HIPAA-related concerns that center around organ donation processes. According to a Code of Federal Regulations linked to from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, "a covered entity may use or disclose protected health information to organ procurement organizations or other entities engaged in the procurement, banking, or transplantation of cadaveric organs, eyes, or tissue for the purpose of facilitating organ, eye or tissue donation and transplantation."
A 2012 guidance document from the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network listed some of the other HIPAA particularities that can influence how donations are handled. For example, organ procurement organizations (OPO's) are not typically considered covered entities, but hospitals can disclose protected health information to OPO's during "procurement, banking or transplantation" for cadaveric material.
Even though the upcoming week will focus specifically on minorities, preventing HIPAA violations is important no matter the time of year or ethnicity. Preventative measures, like a HIPAA compliance audit, can leave practices more prepared for IT risks surrounding donations.