Americans treated for drug addiction would see changes in how their medical records are shared under a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services.
Required by Congress under 2020’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the proposed rule (RIN: 0945-AA16) would allow health-care providers to share a patient’s substance use treatment records after a one-time consent.
The move marks a notable shift for record-sharing in addiction treatment, where patient consent was previously needed each time records were shared. Varying privacy law requirements “can slow treatment, inhibit care, and perpetuate negative stereotypes about people facing substance use challenges,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra noted Monday.
“This proposed rule would improve coordination of care for patients receiving treatment while strengthening critical privacy protections to help ensure individuals do not forego life-saving care due to concerns about records disclosure,” Becerra said in a statement.
The proposal from the HHS Office for Civil Rights effectively aligns substance use records with processes under the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.
The HHS would also secure new enforcement authority over opioid treatment programs under its proposal, including the ability to impose monetary penalties against violations. The agency has floated setting up a process for receiving complaints over programs’ regulatory compliance.
The proposal says that programs “may not intimidate, threaten, coerce, discriminate against, or take other retaliatory action against any patient for the exercise of any right established, or for participation in any process” including the filing of a complaint.
Restrictions on using and disclosing records against patients in criminal, civil, legislative, and administrative proceedings would also be heightened under the proposal.