Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > HIPAA Reform Regulation, Originally Slated for This Month, Misses Deadline

HIPAA Reform Regulation, Originally Slated for This Month, Misses Deadline

Posted 19 March 2012 | By

When the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was signed into law in 1996, it was heralded for its privacy provisions, which regulate the disclosure and security of any health information that can be used to link an individual to a specific treatment.

But HIPAA's privacy provisions also had an unintended consequence, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer: the law's provisions, which apply retroactively, are preventing epidemiologists from studying long-dead patients, some of whom died as early as the sixteenth century.

"[HIPAA's] protection applies not only to the charts of the living or recently deceased, but also to records dating to the 1700s and 1800s," writes The Philadelphia Inquirer. "[This] poses a problem for historians and researchers … who say the public is being denied important information that could help guide current health-care practices and policies."

Researchers are routinely stymied when trying to conduct records research, particularly when the information pertains to sexually transmitted diseases, genetic defects or psychiatric disorders.

The US Department of Health and Human Services proposed changing the regulations in 2010 so patient records would be available 50 years after the close of a patient's estate, but the updated regulation has failed to materialize and seems unlikely to in the near future.

"Even when the federal regulations ease, as they are expected to, the stricter laws that some states have will prevail," said The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Read more:

The Philadelphia Inquirer- Health-record privacy impeding medical research

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