Now that the HIPAA privacy regulations have the force of law, much of the confusion of past years has subsided, as a solid majority of physician executives agree that HIPAA is an adequate safeguard to patient privacy.
However, HIPAA is not having the same effect on information technology investment as it once did, even with the rules governing electronic transactions and code sets going into effect this Thursday after three years of preparation time.
In the sixth annual Modern Physician/PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of physician executive opinions on key information systems issues, 69.2% of the 432 people who submitted valid responses say the regulations authorized by the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act will protect the privacy of personal healthcare information. Only 10.6% say they will not.
A year ago, 42.2% of survey participants were not sure what effect HIPAA would have on patient privacy.
The privacy rules went into effect April 14. Modern Physician and PwC conducted the survey during July and August.
Modern Physician will publish full survey results and in-depth analysis in the November issue of the magazine. Highlights will appear on ModernPhysician.com and in the MP Stat e-newsletter every Monday through Nov. 3.
Uncertainty still reigns in terms of HIPAA and IT, according to the survey, as those not sure if the regulations will prompt more rapid adoption of technology shot up to 47.1% from 27.1% in the 2002 survey. Furthermore, only 274 of the 436 people who took the survey this year actually answered this question.
Mark Cohen, M.D., chief of professional technology for the Rochester, N.Y.-area operations of Lifetime Health, an HMO-affiliated multispecialty physician group across upstate New York, has seen HIPAA privacy restrictions in action. Cohen says the practice has upset a number of people by refusing to release test results to the spouses of patients without a written authorization.
"We've had people yell at us," Cohen says. "We just blame HIPAA."