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Changes in Medical Privacy Rules Enacted

Changes in Medical Privacy Rules Enacted

President Bush announced changes in the medical records privacy rule proposed by President Bill Clinton before he left office. Physicians do not have to comply with these rules until 2003. 

One major change Bush made was to specify that physicians and hospitals could, for the purposes of treatment, share medical information about patients with other physicians, hospitals, and providers, and provide medical services to the patients themselves, without prior consent. Rather, doctors and other health-care providers must notify patients of privacy policies and make a "good faith effort" to get written acknowledgment. 

Physicians had also been concerned about the provision limiting the use of personal health information to the "minimum necessary." Doctors, patients, nurses, and others involved in a patient’s care feared that routine conversations could violate the rule. The Bush version would continue to cover oral communications and maintain the "minimum necessary" requirement, but would specify that doctors could discuss a patient’s treatment with other professionals without the fear that their conversations could lead to a violation. As long as minimum necessary standards are met and reasonable safeguards are taken to protect personal health information, incidental disclosures would not be subject to penalties.

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