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Stimulus bill’s privacy issues spark debate

February 11, 2009 by  

Worries about privacy and electronic medical recordsThe stimulus plan’s health IT provisions include new regulations regarding privacy protection, but the debate about their merits is far from over.

Most of the patient privacy advocacy groups have welcomed the provisions as a step in the right direction, although some have pointed out that the proposed legislation does not resolve the issue of patient consent in the use of records.

However, it has emerged that pharmacy chains and health insurance trade associations are unhappy with stronger privacy regulations which they believe put an undue burden on their business model.

According to Government Health IT, the magazine of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) stated that the requirement to inform patient about disclosures of their electronic health records "is likely to have the unintended consequence of discouraging — rather than encouraging — the use of electronic health records."

And the National Association of Chain Drug Stores released a statement saying stronger privacy provisions will negatively impact the industry’s ability "to operate efficiently and freely communicate with patients about legitimate and beneficial treatment options."

The Senate version of the stimulus package passed yesterday and has to be reconciled with the House version before becoming law. It contains provisions for multibillion dollar government investment in infrastructure, healthcare, IT technology, and environment.
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