Coming in under the wire, two more healthcare associations added to a chorus of criticism of proposed changes to federal healthcare privacy regulations that would give patients greater access to find out who has viewed their medical records.
AHA, HBMA criticize proposed HIPAA privacy changes
The American Hospital Association and the Healthcare Billing and Management Association submitted letters to HHS on Aug. 1, the last day for public comment on the proposed modifications to the privacy provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
Under HHS' proposed rule, patients would be able to request from providers an access report listing who, within the provider organization, has viewed their records. Currently, patients can request details only about external viewings of their records—viewings by lawyers, for example. The AHA finds this change "misguided," AHA Executive Vice President Rick Pollack notes in the association's 14-page latter. It "does not appropriately balance the relevant privacy interests of individuals with the substantial burdens on covered entities, including hospitals," Pollack says.
"We urge HHS to withdraw its proposal to create a new individual right to an access report," he continues. Instead of moving forward with the proposal, HHS "should reissue a request for information aimed at better reflecting the statutory requirements, the technological realities and better alignment of the regulation's effectiveness with the compliance burdens."
The HBMA, too, expressed concerns about technological capabilities to meet the proposed new requirements. "The software industry has not yet developed and offered capabilities that meet existing HIPAA expectations, nor the far more sophisticated requirements assumed under this proposed rule," according to an HBMA news release. In addition, the association asserts, if software systems can't address the new reporting demands, healthcare providers and their vendors might have to compile reports manually. "This will cause either universal noncompliance or will bring workflow and productivity to a near standstill; the latter brings enormous new costs to providers," according to the release, which adds that HBMA members "report a scant number of requests" from patients for disclosure reports each year.
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