Coalition urges Congress to update law on substance use disorder records
More than 100 organizations have called on House and Senate leaders to work together to remove decades-old regulations preventing doctors from knowing their patients’ addiction treatment histories.
The organizations, including AHIMA, CHIME and Health IT Now, sent a letter on September 18 to the congressional leadership urging them to include the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety (OPPS) Act in their final agreement on opioid legislation, as lawmakers look to convene a conference committee to reconcile separate opioid bills passed by the House and Senate.
“We urge lawmakers to include the House-passed OPPS Act (H.R. 6082) as part of any final conference agreement, thereby ensuring that addiction treatment records are no longer needlessly isolated from the rest of a patient’s medical history—a practice that has hindered informed decision-making and threatened patient safety for too long,” said Joel White, executive director of Health IT Now’s Opioid Safety Alliance, a working group of prescribers, health systems, technology vendors, pharmacies and pharmacists, as well as professional societies and patients.
The Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act would align Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 2 (42 CFR Part 2) with HIPAA for the purposes of treatment, payment, and healthcare operations, enabling access to patient information while protecting the data with penalties for unlawful disclosure and use.
“Part 2, federal regulations that govern confidentiality of drug and alcohol treatment and prevention records, sets requirements limiting the use and disclosure of patients’ substance use records from certain substance use programs,” states the coalition letter. “Patients are required to give multiple consents, creating a barrier for integration and coordination of healthcare.”
More than 40 years ago, Congress passed 42 CFR Part 2 because of concerns about the potentially negative consequences—including discrimination—that could come from disclosing the patient records of individuals with substance use disorders. However, the 100-plus organizations contend that the antiquated law now stands in the way of lifesaving medical care for patients in recovery for substance use disorders.
“A lack of access to the full scope of medical information for each patient can result in the inability of providers and organizations to deliver safe, high-quality treatment and care coordination,” said the organizations. “Modifying Part 2 to ensure that HIPAA-covered entities have access to a patient’s entire medical record will improve patient safety, treatment and outcomes across the care delivery spectrum, enhancing the entire opioid package.”