The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing 52,000 letters commenting on HHS' proposed regulations to protect the privacy of electronic medical records
The Department of Health and Human Services is reviewing 52,000 letters
that comment on HHS' proposed regulations to protect the privacy of electronic
medical records, but any final regulation is months or even years away.
The review is the latest in a series of actions that would put a firewall
around an individual's personal medical records. The new rules, mandated
by Congress, would represent the first federal effort to safeguard the privacy
of medical records.
But in some cases, the rules would permit health providers to release private
health data to employers, researchers and government data banks without
a patient's consent, critics say.
The issue is being widely debated on Capitol Hill and among public interest
groups, but no one has come up with a foolproof system. At least five bills
on the privacy of medical records are pending in Congress, but none appear
to be going anywhere.
On April 26, an HHS official testified before Congress that its regulations
are attempting "to protect privacy even where it cannot regulate directly."
"The proliferation of electronic records and managed care arrangements has
raised questions about the extent to which individuals' health care information
is protected from inappropriate disclosure," HHS official Janet Heinrich
told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
On April 30, President Clinton promised better safeguards for medical records
and data that detail personal spending habits. "We can't let breakthroughs
in technology break down the walls of privacy," Clinton said in commencement
remarks at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich.
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