The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced a proposed rule to modernize the federal substance abuse confidentiality rules set forth in 42 C.F.R. Part 2. The proposed updates seek to address longstanding complaints from providers and Health Information Exchanges (“HIE”) that the highly stringent confidentiality rules often stymie patient care by limiting information sharing. In addition to updating definitions, the changes would lessen some of the burdens associated with obtaining patient consent and disclosing data for research purposes, though would also provide patients with new rights to an accounting of disclosures. The rules will likely make it easier for providers with direct treatment relationships to better engage in integrated care efforts, though the rules do little to address how other “lawful holders” of substance abuse information, such as health plans or HIEs, can use or disclose it.
Comments on the proposed changes will be accepted until April 11, 2016.