Alison Knopf writes:
When patients seek treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs)—in a society that stigmatizes and discriminates against people with SUDs in so many ways—they naturally want to know if their treatment will be “confidential.” This means: private, not shared with anyone unless they give permission to share it. There’s a federal regulation meant to guarantee this, dating from 1975: the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records, codified as 42 CFR Part 2.
That regulation, even after several updates meant to satisfy the hungry electronic health record (EHR) systems out there, requires that patients sign off—literally—on who gets their information. The consent must say exactly “to whom” the information goes, be time-limited, and prohibit re-disclosure. This obviously would not include EHRs, which allow the entire patient record to be called up. Other provisions include restrictions on the use of ID cards that might identify patients as having SUDs, records security, and documentation of disclosure in cases of medical emergency.
Influential groups in the SUD space are actively advocating to strip away the regulation’s protections.
But CFR Part 2 is now under severe threat. Too often, only lip-service is paid to patient needs, with most of the attention going to the convenience of the system. Influential groups in the SUD space are actively advocating to strip away the regulation’s protections—and the Department of Health and Human Services recently joined that campaign.
Read more on Filter. It’s a lengthy piece, and you may be surprised to learn who supports changing the regulations and protections. Given how many people in this country suffer from SUDs or seek treatment for same, any legislation or regulation that weakens confidentiality protections should be cause for significant concern, and must be weighed not just against the value to society as a whole but to the individual who may suffer tremendous negative consequences without anything gained, so read this piece and start looking into this issue — if not for yourself, then for your child or relative or friend who may one day need to have their privacy protected.
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