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What is not PHI?

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In contrast, some research studies use data that is person-identifiable because it includes personal identifiers such as name, address, but it is not considered to be PHI because the data are not associated with or derived from a healthcare service event (treatment, payment, operations, medical records) not entered into the medical records, nor will the subject/patient be informed of the results. Research health information that is kept only in the researcher’s records is not subject to HIPAA but is regulated by other human subjects protection regulations.

Examples of research health information not subject to HIPAA include such studies as the use of aggregate data, diagnostic tests that do not go into the medical record because they are part of a basic research study and the results will not be disclosed to the subject, and testing done without the PHI identifiers. Some genetic basic research can fall into this category such as the search for potential genetic markers, promoter control elements, and other exploratory genetic research. In contrast, genetic testing for a known disease that is considered to be part of diagnosis, treatment and health care would be considered to use PHI and therefore subject to HIPAA regulations.

Also note, health information by itself without the 18 identifiers is not considered to be PHI. For example, a dataset of vital signs by themselves do not constitute protected health information. However, if the vital signs dataset includes medical record numbers, then the entire dataset must be protected since it contains an identifier. PHI is anything that can be used to identify an individual such as private information, facial images, fingerprints, and voiceprints. These can be associated with medical records, biological specimens, biometrics, data sets, as well as direct identifiers of the research subjects in clinical trials.

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