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Monday, August 2, 2010

Feds Release Final Rules on Electronic Health Records

Personal health records have always been a touchy subject throughout the addiction community. Recovering addicts would like to have the least amount of people possible know about their past. Over the last ten years we have seen medical practices integrate from paper to electronic health records (EHR), removing the need for hard copies; the goal was to connect every medical office and hospital together in an attempt to save time and money. There are many people who are not so keen on the idea and they worry about the level of privacy. People who have been to substance abuse treatment would like to limit access to their records unless explicit permission is given.

Ever since 1972, under the federal Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records Act, health care professionals were barred from accessing records pertaining to individuals' alcohol and other drug treatment without written authorization, except in emergency situations. However, over the years there are many health professionals who have found the above act a hindrance in providing effective medical treatment. Recently, the Feds released the final rules on electronic health records, which will move to merge medical health records with addiction treatment records in order improve health care services through efficiency. Despite, pleas throughout the addiction community to think this through, the "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is pressing forward with regulations (and incentives) to promote wider adoption of electronic health records across the health care system", reported Join Together.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out, but it is clear that many will be affected by the new rules. On July 13, the new rules issued by HHS set minimum requirements for providers who want to get Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments for using EHR technology- setting new standards and certification criteria for such technology. "For years, health policy leaders on both sides of the aisle have urged adoption of electronic health records throughout our health care system to improve quality of care and ultimately lower costs," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Today, with the leadership of the President and the Congress, we are making that goal a reality".

What are your thoughts on Electronic Health Records regarding addiction?

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