A U.S. district court judge in Philadelphia heard arguments for a lawsuit that seeks to throw out the HIPAA privacy rules that went into effect in April.
Judge Mary McLaughlin will probably decide on the case in the next few months, says James Pyles, an attorney for the plaintiffs, who filed their lawsuit in April and amended it in May.
Plaintiffs include professional and consumer groups and individuals, mostly in the mental health field, such as the American Psychoanalytic Association and the National Coalition of Mental Health Professionals and Consumers.
In an interview today with Modern Physician, Pyles says the new HIPAA privacy regulations undermine trust between doctor and patient and will make the patient less willing to provide important healthcare information, which will ultimately harm quality of care.
Because HIPAA loosens professional standards on strict confidentiality of patient information, "physicians are no longer following the canons of ethics of their profession," he says.
Pyles says the law permits the use and disclosure of personal health information for "routine purposes," even if the patient objects to it, and does not require the patient to be informed in many cases when information is passed on to another party.
"The regulation is bad in both directions," he adds. For example, he says, the law prohibits releasing the name of a victim of an auto accident, which most patients don't care about, but it creates more work for hospitals.