Healthcare Business News

N.M. Senate passes patient consent, ‘opt out’ bill

By Joseph Conn
Posted: March 9, 2009 - 12:01 am ET

Patient consent may be required before links to their electronic health records can be placed on a record locator service if a bill that passed the New Mexico state Senate advances in the House, according to the New Mexico Health Department. The bill, the Electronic Medical Records Act, is an initiative of Gov. Bill Richardson sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Peter Wirth.

The legislation would enable patients to opt out of any locator service. One commonly used design for regional health information organizations and statewide health information exchange organizations features a centralized record-locator service that does not contain a full patient record, but an index of basic patient demographic information used to identify a patient, such as name, sex and date of birth; and links to the providers or other record keepers on the network where that patient’s records are stored.

The bill also would require a record locator service to keep a log of anyone who has accessed an individual’s medical information. The latter was made a requirement under the healthcare information technology privacy provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law last month by President Barack Obama. The act, which amends the privacy and security provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also allows patients to require providers not to share their electronically stored health records with payers if the patient pays the provider out of pocket. The proposed New Mexico law would greatly expand patients’ consent authority in that state to include data exchanges. HIPAA allows states to pass more stringent privacy laws than the federal law.

“I have supported moving from paper to electronic records as a way to reduce errors and control costs,” Richardson said in a news release. “We also must protect the privacy of these records, and this bill accomplishes that.”

About 600 physicians in New Mexico, or roughly 15% of providers, use EHRs, the state agency said.

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