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Final Rules to Update Confidentiality Regulations Released

Final Rules to Update Confidentiality Regulations Released

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule to update and modernize the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulations.

This change will facilitate information exchange within new health care models while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns of patients seeking treatment for a substance use disorder. These modifications also help clarify the regulations and reduce unnecessary burden.

The laws and regulations governing the confidentiality of substance use disorder records were written out of great concern about the potential use of substance use disorder information against individuals, causing individuals with substance use disorders not to seek needed treatment.

The disclosure of records of individuals with substance use disorders has the potential to lead to a host of negative consequences, including: loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of child custody, discrimination by medical professionals and insurers, arrest, prosecution, and incarceration.

The purpose of the regulations at title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part 2 (42 CFR part 2) is to ensure that a patient receiving treatment for a substance use disorder in a part 2 program is not made more vulnerable by reason of the availability of their patient record than an individual with a substance use disorder who does not seek treatment.

Now, more than 29 years since the part 2 regulations were last substantively amended, this final rule makes policy changes to the regulations to better align them with advances in the U.S. health care delivery system while retaining important privacy protections.

The modifications modernize the rule by facilitating electronic exchange of substance use disorder information for treatment and other legitimate health care purposes while ensuring appropriate confidentiality protections for records that might identify an individual, directly or indirectly, as having or having had a substance use disorder.

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