The House of Representatives Wednesday voted to pass the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, H.R. 6082. The bill now moves to the Senate chamber to receive consideration.

Earlier this week, the nation’s governors and a large group of healthcare industry stakeholders urged the House to the pass the legislation, which would ease restrictions on the sharing of medical records among physicians treating patients with addictions.

The industry groups that are supporting the policy statement, put forth by the National Governors Association, included more than 100 patient and provider organizations brought together in an alliance with Premier, a large national group purchasing and service organization.

A change in existing HIPAA treatment, payment and operations protections “will allow sharing of medical records among providers for patients with addictions, just like we have done for every other disease and condition since 1996,” alliance members state. “Current restrictions on the ability of opioid treatment programs to report medication dispenses to their state prescription drug monitoring program limit providers’ ability to prevent overdose and diversion, as well as potentially deadly medication interactions.”

The proposed legislation would further strengthen patient privacy with protections that include breach notification; protections against the use of information in criminal prosecution and civil case proceedings; protections against sharing information with employers and landlords; and replacement of current laws where penalties for HIPAA violations are almost never enforced.

“H.R. 6082 will only allow for the legitimate sharing of health information for specific treatment, payment and healthcare operations purposes and only with covered entities that are bound by HIPAA,” according to the document.

The alliance also calls for federal grants of longer duration to support information sharing beyond the usual one or two years, and more flexible terms dictating how funds can be used.

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Information technology-supported programs that should be funded include maintenance and ongoing operations of state prescription drug monitoring programs, and data and information sharing between public health organizations and law enforcement, the NGA paper suggests.

Most importantly, however, the alliance calls for changes to HIPAA to enable addiction specialists to use health information exchange technology.

“Federal privacy rules impede care coordination and threaten patient safety by prohibiting substance use disorder treatment providers from fully participating in electronic health information exchange, leaving treating providers without the full picture of a patient’s history,” according to the alliance.

These restrictions limit providers’ ability to prevent overdose, diversion and adverse medication interactions. Consequently, the groups call for mandated interoperability between electronic health records and state prescription drug monitoring programs, as well as information sharing at the state level between public health and public safety programs.

Further, controlled substance providers should be required to register with their state prescription drug monitoring program and complete training on pain management and substance abuse disorder before being able to renew their Drug Enforcement Administration registration.

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