A survey of 1,527 epidemiology practitioners published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association finds variability in the interpretation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has slowed scientific research by making it more costly and time-consumingto the point that some academic institutional review boards are closing down research efforts.
HIPAA measures were designed to restrict access to medical records while allowing researchers to still legitimately use data; however, because review boards are allowed to define HIPAA measures, there is a wide range in how procedures for studies are governed, said Roberta Ness, chairman of the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, in the JAMA report. Ness, who is an adviser to the Institute of Medicine committee studying the effects of HIPAA on research, helped to conduct the study, which was commissioned by the institute.
In addition, the privacy rule has increased research costs by a "large degree," according to 40% of those surveyed, and almost 50% of respondents said "significant" time was added to complete projects, Ness said in the report. Only 25% of the respondents believed HIPAA had improved patient information confidentiality, according to the report.