Critics blast 'unnecessary' HIPAA disclosures rule

Fearful that doctors might be hesitant to adopt electronic health record technology, the Medical Group Management Association called on the Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw its proposed HIPAA "accounting of disclosures" rule this week. MGMA President and CEO William Jessee cited his organization's new study in making the request, which determined that out of 1,400 participants, more than 90 percent deemed the rule "burdensome and unnecessary."

The accounting of disclosures regulation, mandated as part of the HITECH Act in 2009, calls for medical practices that maintain electronic health records to be able to produce a detailed report of any patient's information accessed by a staff member for any reason for the previous three years. That includes submitting claims for payment.

When asked how many patient requests for disclosure reports they had received in the past 12 months, however, 65 percent of respondents in the MGMA study answered "0 or 1 per [full-time-equivalent] physician." Another 5 percent said two to three times per FTE per year; under 4 percent said four to nine times per FTE per year; 6 percent said 10 or more times per FTE a year; and 20 percent said they didn't recall the times.

"Considering how infrequently physician practices receive these requests from patients, the proposed rule fails to meet the statutory requirement to balance the needs of patients with the burden on providers," Jessee said. "These reports, which would be required to show all electronic access to a patient's health information for up to three years, could be hundreds or even thousands of pages long, making them extremely challenging for physician practices to produce and of little practical value to the patient receiving them."

Similarly, in a letter to HHS, the American Health Information Management Association criticized the proposed rule, referring to it as a "significant burden" for providers. Earlier this week, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives also slammed the rule, calling it "not realistic."

For more information:
- here's the MGMA study
- check out MGMA's announcement
- here's the AHIMA letter (.pdf)
- read the Government Health IT article