Physician Practice

Alcohol and substance abuse records final rule aims to improve data sharing

Physician Practice Insider, April 4, 2017

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) released a final rule updating privacy regulations for alcohol and substance abuse patient records on January 18. The changes are intended to reflect the way information is shared in new healthcare models while still protecting the privacy of individuals seeking treatment, SAMSHA said in a statement.

The final rule closely mirrors the February 2016 proposed rule. Some changes were specifically designed to allow providers and patients to participate in CMS programs that rely on information sharing and coordination of care between multiple providers.

For example, the final rule includes a provision that allows a patient to consent to disclosing his or her information to an individual or entity using a general designation in some circumstances. Patient privacy is still protected because a patient does not have to agree to allow the disclosure, SAMSHA said. A patient who agrees to such disclosures can request a list of entities his or her alcohol or substance abuse records are shared with.

Another change meant to bring regulations in line with current CMS models allows providers, such as Accountable Care Organizations, to perform CMS-required audits and quality and financial evaluations.

Other changes make updates to the regulation to address electronic documentation and improve the availability of information to qualified researchers in specific regulatory circumstances.

SAMSHA will monitor implementation and will create additional sub-regulatory guidance as needed.

This article originally appeared on Revenue Cycle Advisor.

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