The American Hospital Association (AHA) has urged congress to update data privacy rules to align them more closely with HIPAA.
At present, the privacy rules of 42 CFR Part 2 (Part 2) restrict the use and disclosure of substance abuse records of patients that have been enrolled in certain substance abuse programs. The AHA is concerned that because current regulations prohibit the disclosure of patients’ entire medical records, healthcare providers may find it difficult to coordinate patient care.
The AHA explains that current regulations prevent physicians from accessing information relating to patients’ enrollment in drug abuse programs, which could result in a physician prescribing opioid medication to patients that have a substance abuse disorder. If physicians are not allowed access to such information, this could have a negative impact on the patient. This may prevent the patient from “receiving safe, effective, high quality substance use treatment and whole-person care,” according to the AHA.
A notice of proposed rulemaking has recently been released by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) which updates current privacy laws, although the AHA does not believe that the changes go far enough. The AHA has recommended that the Part 2 rules be better aligned with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which permits the use and disclosure of these data for healthcare operations.
If the Part 2 regulations were updated and brought into line with HIPAA Rules, physicians would be permitted access to patients’ entire medical records, which has potential to improve the care provided to patients. A physician would therefore be able to determine whether a patient had a history of opioid addition for example. They could then prescribe medications accordingly. The AHA explains that there is currently an opioid epidemic in the United States and access to full medical records is critical to patient safety.
When Part 2 was first introduced in the 1970’s, fewer patients were receiving addiction treatment medication. Now there are three treatments for alcohol addiction and a further three for opioid addition that have been approved by the FDA. 2 million individuals are currently receiving such treatments. Consequently, there is significant potential for patients to be adversely affected and suffer harm as a result of drug interactions if physicians do not have access to entire medical records.
The AHA does not believe that Part 2 should allow these data to be disclosed to any individuals or agencies who would use the data against the patient, only that the information be disclosed for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. In its letter to congress, the AHA said “We do not want consumers to be made vulnerable as a result of seeking treatment for a substance use disorder.”