Changes Proposed on Confidentiality of Substance Disorder Records

"This proposal will help patients with substance use disorders fully participate and benefit from a health care delivery system that’s better, smarter, and healthier while protecting their privacy," HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said. "We are moving Medicare, and the health care system as a whole, toward new integrated care models that incentivize providers to coordinate and put the patient at the center of their care, and we are modernizing our rules to protect patients."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued a proposed rule that would change the rules governing the confidentiality of substance use disorder records, stating that the proposed changes would facilitate information exchange within new health care models while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns of patients seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced them Feb. 5.

The changes proposed to the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulations, 42 CFR Part 2, will be published in the Federal Register on Feb. 9, 2016.

"This proposal will help patients with substance use disorders fully participate and benefit from a health care delivery system that’s better, smarter, and healthier while protecting their privacy," Burwell said. "We are moving Medicare, and the health care system as a whole, toward new integrated care models that incentivize providers to coordinate and put the patient at the center of their care, and we are modernizing our rules to protect patients."

Existing rules were enacted in 1975 and were last substantively updated in 1987. HHS reported that it is proposing to modernize the existing rules because new models are built on a foundation of information sharing to support coordination of patient care; the development of an electronic infrastructure for managing and exchanging patient data; and an increased focus on performance measurement and quality improvement within the health care system.

HHS' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration held a listening session in June 2014 on how the current regulations should be updated, and SAMHSA also took written comments at that time. Comments on the newly proposed changes are due by 5 p.m. on April 11.

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