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Agency finalizes rule on patient records

January 31, 2018

By Jennifer Garvin

Washington — The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced Jan. 4 that it has finalized a rule governing the confidentiality of patient records associated with substance use disorders.

The Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 2, is a federal public health law that protects the "confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records." The final rule will go into effect Feb. 2.

According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration news release summarizing the rule, major changes include:

  • Permitting "additional disclosures of patient identifying information, with patient consent, to facilitate payment and health care operations such as claims management, quality assessment and patient safety activities."
  • Permitting "additional disclosures of patient identifying information to certain contractors, subcontractors, and legal representatives for the purpose of conducting a Medicare, Medicaid, or [Children's Health Insurance Program] audit or evaluation."
  • Assisting "users of electronic health records by permitting use of an abbreviated notice of prohibition on re-disclosure more easily accommodated in [electronic health records] text fields."

The ADA filed comments on the proposed rule in April 2016, asking the agency to exempt dental practices because the Association was concerned the rule could cause confusion, and because it overlaps with compliance measures already required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

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