Detroit News Examines HIPAA Access to Care Issues
The Detroit News on Monday examined concerns from health care providers that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act medical privacy rule has affected access to care for patients (Lewis, Detroit News, 3/29). The HIPAA Federal Privacy Rule, enacted last April, allows providers to share patient records for the purposes of treatment and other "health care operations." Providers do not have to obtain written consent before they disclose medical records, but rather must inform patients of their new rights and make a "good faith effort" to obtain written acknowledgment from patients that they have received the information. Providers must obtain consent from patients before they can disclose medical records in "nonroutine" cases (California Healthline, 2/18). Providers who violate the rule can face fines between $100 to $250,000 and as many as 10 years in prison. Providers maintain that they are "so wrapped up in complying with the privacy standards" that they are "distracted from doing their jobs," which can cause patients to wait longer for care, the News reports. Dr. Paul Friedman, a general vascular surgeon at Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center in Dearborn, Mich., said that the rule takes "time and energy away from our patients because it's not directly related to their care, but rather to the care of their records." According to the News, the rule not only makes access to care "difficult for those it was designed to protect," but it also costs providers "billions in compliance measures." Some providers also have raised concerns that the rule is "changing the way the health care field operates in ways never before contemplated," such as "putting medical studies at risk because access to patient information has been vastly limited," the News reports. However, Richard Campanelli of HHS said that providers are "overanalyzing the rules, likely for fear of being penalized," the News reports. "The rules are flexible. We didn't say exactly how each institution must safeguard their information -- they just have to adopt reasonable safeguards," Campanelli said (Detroit News, 3/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.