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Changing Regulations To Give Patients Greater Access To Health Records

On September 14, HHS released for comment draft lab results regulations that will, if finalized, effectively bathe the Achilles’ heel of health data in the River Styx of ¡data liberación! All lab results will be made available to patients, just like all other health data.  (See the HHS presser and YouTube video from the recent consumer health summit.  Todd Park, HHS CTO, is also the chief activist for what he calls ¡data liberación!)

Forgive me for mixing my metaphors (or whatever it is I just did), but even though there are just a couple dozen words of regulations at issue here, this is a big deal.

When HIPAA established a federal right for each individual to obtain a copy of his or her health records, in paper or electronic format, there were a couple of types of records called out as specifically exempt from this general rule of data liberation, in the HIPAA Privacy Rule45 CFR § 164.524(a)(1): psychotherapy notes, information compiled for use in an administrative or court proceeding, and lab results from what is known as a CLIA lab or a CLIA-exempt lab (including  “reference labs,” as in your specimens get referred there by the lab that collects them, or freestanding labs that a patient may be referred to for a test; these are not the labs that are in-house at many doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health care facilities — the in-house labs are part of the “parent” provider organization and their results are part of the parents’ health records already subject to HIPAA).

(“CLIA” stands for the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, which established quality standards for certain laboratory testing.)

This carveout of lab results from patient-accessible records has long been a thorn in the side of the e-patient.  This month, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Challenges And Opportunities Of Health Care Social Media

I spoke on health care social media and regulatory compliance at the Health Care Compliance Association’s New England Regional Annual Conference last week.  As you may expect, the room was full of the folks who, generally speaking, are the folks who block social media sites on health care organization networks.  I sent a link to an online bio to one of the session organizers in advance, and even that site was blocked by his facility’s network.  Clearly, we have a long way to go in educating health care compliance professionals about the risks and benefits of using health care social media, and an appropriate approach to balancing these risks and benefits so as to establish an appropriate social media presence for each health care organization.

My talk was followed by a presentation by two federal prosecutors, one of whom reminded the audience that they may need to produce copies of all online postings in response to government document requests or subpoenas.  We may quibble about the scope of material that might be covered by such a production request, but the key takeaway from this comment should be Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

When HIPAA Doesn’t Apply

Got a call from a long-time patient over the weekend. Hearing a not overly alarming story but one that was not terribly reassuring either, I suggested she go to the Emergency Department.

Later that morning, sitting at an internet cafe with DSS eating breakfast, each of us surfing on our respective laptops, he says conversationally, “So I see Miss LTP is in the ER.”

My heart stopped and my stomach dropped. Had he managed to access the voicemail program I use for after hours calls? My EMR? Had I left shortcuts up to any patient-related materials on that machine? When had I last used it anyway? My mind was racing. I wasn’t all that concerned specifically about him knowing that a particular person was in the ER, since he understands confidentiality. But if he was able to access confidential patient information, did that mean I had a security breach?

“How do you know that?” I asked him carefully, after a very long pause, during which all of the above ran through my head. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

Health Care Attorney Discusses The Use Of Disclaimers On Facebook Pages

This is the third part of a three part post addressing the legal concerns of social networking in the health care arena.

In part one, legal expert David Harlow, Esq., Health Care Attorney and Consultant at The Harlow Group, LLC in Boston, answered questions regarding “The Legal Implications for Doctors, Nurses and Hospitals Engaging in Social Media?”

In part two, Mr. Harlow answered questions related to the Pharma industry;  “Legal Concerns: What Steps can Pharma Take to Engage in Social Media?”

The third part addresses a question from a follower on Facebook about the use of disclaimers.

Q:  Barbara: A Healthin30 reader on Facebook writes:  “I’m looking for a good disclaimer to put on a couple of medical practices’ Facebook pages. The AMA social media guidelines aren’t helpful. Do you have a good boilerplate you recommend? Thanks in advance for your help!”  David, can you offer a couple suggestions?

A:  David: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Health in 30*

What Should People Receiving Health Care Be Called? Empowered Patient Vs. Health Care Consumer

“There is a better way – structural reforms that empower patients with greater choices and increase the role of competition in the health-care marketplace.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) August 3, 2011

The highly charged political debates about reforming American health care have provided tempting opportunities to rename the people who receive health services.  But because the impetus for this change has been prompted by cost and quality concerns of health care payers, researchers and policy experts rather than emanating from us out of our own needs, some odd words have been called into service.  Two phrases commonly used to describe us convey meanings that mischaracterize our experiences and undervalue our needs: “empowered patient” and “health care consumer.”

As one who has done serious time as a patient and who spends serious time listening to talks and reading the literature that use these words to describe us, I ask you to reconsider their use.

“Empowered patient” The fabrication of the verb “to empower” from the noun “power” was used in the civil rights and community development movements to describe a benevolent bestowal of influence on disenfranchised individuals and groups by those who had previously excluded them.  When used in relation to health care, the word perpetuates the idea that we are passive entities, waiting to be gratefully endowed by our clinician or a new policy with the right and ability to act on our own behalf.  Our “empowerment” takes place not as a result of our own will or preference, but rather because we have been given permission to act in a different way by some external agent.

This word is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

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Latest Book Reviews

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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