Changes in Medical Privacy Rules Enacted

May 1, 2002

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.

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

One major changeBush made was to specify that physicians and hospitals could, for the purposesof treatment, share medical information about patients with other physicians,hospitals, and providers, and provide medical services to the patientsthemselves, without prior consent. Rather, doctors and other health-careproviders must notify patients of privacy policies and make a "good faitheffort" to get written acknowledgment. 

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