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Some Modern Guidance on a 30-Year-Old Substance Abuse Confidentiality Law

While Health Care Reform and HIPAA's HITECH Regulations are hot topics in the health care world, receiving less attention is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's recently published Frequently Asked Questions ("FAQs") for applying Substance Abuse Confidentiality Regulations to electronic health information.  While receiving less media attention, these FAQs are no less important as they give guidance on a law and regulations that were enacted nearly thirty years ago (the federal confidentiality law is codified as 42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2 and 42 CFR Part 2 (“Part 2”)).  Not surprisingly, given that the law was enacted thirty years ago, prior to the FAQs there was little government guidance on substance abuse confidentiality that contemplated modern technology such as electronic health records. 

These FAQs provide this guidance. In particular, the FAQs provide specific guidance on methods for including substance abuse related information in an electronic health records in accordance with the federal confidentiality laws.

In total, the FAQs answer thirty-seven questions on the topic.  The questions ranged from basic questions (such as "Does the federal law that protects the confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records allow information about patients with substance use disorders to be included in electronic health information exchange systems?") to the more complex (Under the regulations, can an health information exchange reveal that a patient had an encounter at a mixed use facility (or “general medical” facility ) as long the health information exchange does not reveal that the patient was in the mixed use facility’s substance abuse program?).

For the complete list of FAQs, click here (We have identified that the following link is no longer active, and it has been removed) and if you have any questions regarding Substance Abuse and electronic health records contact an attorney at Foster Swift.

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