HHS bolsters patient confidentiality for substance use disorder treatment

HHS will implement new rules designed to improve confidentiality for patients receiving treatment for substance use disorder and integrate records for these treatments with standard medical records. 

In a final rule issued Feb. 8, the agency issued new rules aligning penalties for confidentiality breaches for substance use treatment records to those that apply to HIPPA-compliant providers. 

"Patient confidentiality is one of the bedrock [principles] in healthcare," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a Feb. 8 news release. "People who are struggling with substance use disorders must have the same ability to keep their information private as anyone else. This new rule helps to ensure that happens, by strengthening confidentiality protections and improving the integration of behavioral health with other medical records." 

The new rule also allows a single patient consent for future uses and disclosures for treatment, payment and healthcare operations, and allows HIPAA-compliant providers who receive these records to redisclose them to other compliant providers. 

It also bars substance use treatment records to be used in any criminal or civil proceedings without patient consent or a court order. 

Read the full rule here.

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