AHIMA favors new congressional push to aid addiction treatment

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The American Health Information Management Association is asking Congress to pass two proposed bills to prevent patient overdoses by giving physicians more information about addiction treatment, which currently cannot be shared with doctors unless a patient consents.

The goal is to ensure that patients suffering from addiction receive the integrated care they need, with the physician having the necessary information to give care that is safe, contends AHIMA, which represents health information management professionals in provider organizations.

The inability to link patients with their clinical data is an increasingly serious patient safety issue, according to AHIMA. Patient matching errors often begin at registration and can generate a cascade of errors, including wrong-site surgery, delayed or lost diagnoses, duplicative testing or wrong patient orders.

The bills are H.R. 3545 by Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) and Senate Bill 1850 by Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The legislation would align existing regulations that limit release of substance abuse disorder treatment records without patient consent, with a provision in the HIPAA law that allows providers to get this information when it directly affects their provision of care.

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Consequently, the bills seek to find a middle ground by modernizing privacy protocols to maximize quality care, according to AHIMA.

“We are facing one of the nation’s deadliest substance abuse epidemics, and it’s time for the laws put into place decades ago to reflect the needs of the industry today,” says Pamela Lane, vice president of government relations at AHIMA.

The organization’s members are working to find a balance between access to information and the privacy of health records, and by supporting the bills, HIM professionals are achieving both goals, she adds.

With Congress since 1999 prohibiting the use of a national patient identifier, AHIMA continues to call for the restrictive language to be taken out of law. However, the organization recognizes that there continues to be resistance in Congress to permit a national identifier, so AHIMA is engaged in ongoing advocacy for a nationwide patient matching strategy.

“We had people look up their name on a website to see how many others have the same name to demonstrate the need for better patient matching to uniquely identify a patient,” Lane says. “If you pick the wrong patient, you can kill them. We just have to have the conversation to find solutions.”

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