PRIVACY: Docs Fear Penalties as Hawaii Law Takes Effect
A new patient privacy law took effect Saturday in Hawaii, creating an "atmosphere of confusion and fear among medical professionals," the Honolulu Star-Bulletin reports. Under the law, hospitalized patients' information cannot be disclosed without their consent to relatives, news media or florists, and authorization for release of medical information must be accompanied by a detailed description of its use. However, consent is not necessary to reveal patient information for treatment, payment or "qualified health care operations." The law, which was passed last year, has state physicians and health plans fearing the penalties for failure to comply, including possible prison sentences, fines of $5,000 or $10,000 for "knowing and intentional" violations and civil penalties of up to $100,000 for multiple violations. Some physicians are calling the law "restrictive," and task force members who drafted the legislation concede it is "complex and has some holes" that may need to be addressed by the next Legislature. A Hawaii Medical Association official said that the Legislature made changes to the bill that "made parts of it confusing" and unclear, adding her organization plans to submit legislation to "clear up unintended consequences of the law now being identified" (Altonn, 7/1). The law makes Hawaii the first state to offer "sweeping protection" for patients and their medical records ( USA Today, 7/3).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.