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Sharing of Substance Abuse Treatment Records Considered

The records of patients of substance abuse treatment programs that are federally funded are very highly protected. In fact, every time a care provider wishes to share a patient’s records with another care provider, the patient must first consent to this disclosure. There are a few limited exceptions to this, but even in the cases of “treatment, payment, or healthcare operations,” the patient must consent to the release in writing. This policy has been in effect for 40 years under 42 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 2.

However, as the health care industry has seen and will continue to see significant changes under the Affordable Care Act, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration is reevaluating these rules. From Modern Healthcare:

SAMHSA last month published notice that it was considering amending the rule covering drug and alcohol abuse records because some complain the rule’s more stringent privacy protections present barriers to record-sharing. These barriers impinge on the ability of new care models such as accountable care organizations and patient-centered medical homes to provide coordinated care at lower costs, critics say.

Proponents of changing the privacy rules surrounding federally-funded substance abuse treatment programs argue that by easing access to records, the divide between mental and general healthcare can be bridged more easily, allowing for more efficient care. However, many believe that these patients’ right to privacy is just as important as it ever was, regardless of recent and anticipated changes in the healthcare industry.

SAMHSA recently held an open web conference as a forum for discussion of potential changes in these privacy laws. Numerous solutions were proposed, including changing rules to work more efficiently with HIPAA, so that patient consent would not be required for “treatment, payment and other healthcare operations.” Others suggested updating electronic records systems and other health care technology in order to increase records-sharing efficiency while maintaining the same degree of privacy. The option of allowing patients to give blanket consent for their records was also discussed. As of now, SAMHSA has not made any decision with regard to the privacy rules.

About The Bergand Group

The Bergand Group is an addiction treatment center located in Baltimore, MD. Our therapists have more than twenty years of experience in the mental health and addiction fields. Our focus is on providing comprehensive mental health care and appropriate care for addictive disorders. We offer both alcohol treatment and drug treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or substance addiction, there is help available. We also offer several other services, including family therapy and counseling. To speak with someone at our office, please call us at 410-853-7691. You can also contact us via email, and follow us on FacebookGoogle+Twitter and LinkedIn.

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