Regulations governing the treatment of substance use disorder records and HIPAA are currently at odds, although new legislation has been proposed to align both sets of regulations.
Representatives Tim Murphy and Earl Blumenauer have introduced a new bill – The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety (OPPS) Act – to update the treatment of substance abuse disorder records and bring it into the 21st Century by aligning 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 2 (Part 2) with HIPAA.
Currently, details of a patient’s treatment of addition is kept separate from the patient’s medical record. When that patient visits a doctor for treatment, the doctor is not party to the information about the patients’ history of drug abuse and treatment. That information is prohibited from being shared with doctors.
Without that information, a doctor could prescribe a patient who has previously had an addiction to opioids with the same drugs that the individual has struggled to quit. Current legislation therefore needs to be updated. If not, it could lead to many more overdose deaths.
The need for a change to the law was clearly highlighted by Jessica Grubb, who was prescribed oxycodone tablets after surgery only to die from an overdose. Grubb was a recovering addict who had been off opioids for 6 months. Had the discharging doctor had access to her full medical record, different treatment would have been prescribed.
Murphy said, “The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act will allow doctors to deliver optimal, lifesaving medical care, while maintaining the highest level of privacy for the patient.” The legislation will simplify Part 2 regulations and incorporate more protections to ensure patient privacy is protected and prevent disclosures of sensitive information that could cause a patient to be harmed. If details of past substance use disorder are disclosed, the patient could lose their employment of face prosecution.
The legislation includes protections to ensure that any information used or disclosed to initiate or substantiate any criminal charges “shall be excluded from evidence in any proposed or actual proceedings relating to such criminal charges or investigation and absent good cause shown shall result in the automatic dismissal of any proceedings for which the content of the record was offered.”
The OPPS Act has received the backing of a coalition of more than 30 healthcare industry stakeholders who have been pushing for changes to be made to existing legislation. In a letter to the representatives, the coalition said the OPPS Act will “ensure persons with opioid use disorder and other substance use disorders receive the integrated care they need.”
They also pointed out the need for patients’ privacy to be protected, saying “We do not want patients with substance use disorders to be made vulnerable as a result of seeking treatment for addiction, this legislation strengthens protections of their records.”