MEDICAL PRIVACY: Groups Concerned About HHS Privacy Laws
Doctors groups and privacy advocates are voicing their concern over the new HHS-created medica l privacy regulations, the Washington Post reports. HHS now is reviewing almost 53,000 public comments on the proposed regulations. Opponents of the regulations argue that the rules actually increase access to medical records because patient consent is not required for a variety of situations, including disease management programs, institutional research studies, law enforcement investigations and government data banks. By omitting patient consent stipulations, the guidelines "would have the opposite effect" of protecting privacy, Richard Sobel, a Harvard Medical School political scientist, said. He added, "[T]hese regulations essentially abolish informed consent." But insurers and researchers argue that open access to patient records is necessary for them to "perform their job" and to advance their studies. But Dr. William Plested, an American Medical Association trustee, said, "Nobody should have the right to your private information without your consent at the time." Another source of contention is that the rules would only apply to medical records sent via computer -- excluding paper documents or records typed on a word processor or sent by fax. "That's why this is silly," an administration official said, adding, "We should cover health information and not worry about what type of electron is assisting" in its processing. The proposal also would allow patients to view and correct their records and would mandate that hospitals, doctors and health plans disclose how medical information will be used and monitor what is disclosed. Psychotherapy notes are specifically protected under privacy guidelines, except in cases of treatment, payment or "health care operations" (Okie, 4/16).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.