HHS Plans Modifications to Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records

HCPRO Website, February 8, 2016

Proposed changes to regulations governing substance abuse records would make it easier for providers to share information while still protecting the privacy of patients seeking treatment for substance abuse disorders, HHS says.

The existing rule, Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records 42 CFR Part 2, prohibits providers from sharing substance abuse treatment records with other providers without the patient’s consent. This strict rule is in contrast to HIPAA regulations, which do not require providers to obtain patient consent to disclose records for treatment, payment, or other healthcare operations.

The modifications HHS proposes are designed to modernize 42 CFR Part 2. The modifications would allow patients seeking substance abuse treatment to participate in new integrated healthcare models that are built on information sharing, coordinated care, and an electronic infrastructure for managing and exchanging data, according to HHS. However, HHS wants to ensure that patients with substance abuse disorders are protected from inappropriate and damaging disclosures with more stringent federal regulations than currently provided by laws such as HIPAA.

HHS first moved to modify 42 CFR Part 2 in 2014. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) held a listening session in June 2014 to solicit feedback on 42 CFR Part 2 and accepted written comments. Feedback from the listening session and written comments were used in this Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

The NPRM will be published in the February 9 issue of the Federal Register. SAMHSA will accept public comments until 5 p. m. Eastern, April 11, 2016.