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HHS Sends EHR Disclosure Rule for Review

Dom Nicastro, for HealthLeaders Media, February 10, 2011

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) pushed forward a HITECH-required proposed rule on accounting of disclosures of EHRs Wednesday.

The rule will lay the foundation for what healthcare providers will be accountable for when patients request disclosures on their electronic medical records. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) reviews all rules before they are made final. The process could take anywhere from one to 90 days.

HITECH expands an individual's right to request accounts on disclosures of his/her health record.

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the enforcer of the HIPAA privacy and security rules, in May 2010 published a notice in the Federal Register asking for help crafting this proposed rule on accounting of disclosures on EHRs.

OCR wrote that it wanted to “better understand the interests of individuals with respect to learning of such disclosures, the administrative burden on covered entities and business associates of accounting for such disclosures, and other information that may inform [our] rulemaking in this area."

Current law exempts disclosures to carry out treatment, payment and healthcare operations. But HITECH changed that, allowing patients to request these types of disclosures through an EHR.

Because of the expansion of disclosure rights to patients, when President Obama in February 2009 signed HITECH into law, some providers called the accounting of disclosures provision a logistical nightmare.

In order to get ahead of the game, covered entities should document their uses, disclosures, and storage of PHI with EHRs or any other system or data repository, Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, OR, says in the HCPro, Inc. April 2009 HIPAA and the HITECH Act whitepaper.

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