HIMSS: Patient access to test results should be less burdensome for labs

The American Hospital Association (AHA) and HIMSS have asked for changes in the Department of Health & Human Services' (HHS) proposed rule on patient access to laboratory results. Neither organization opposes increasing patients' ability to obtain this information, but both recommend modifications to lighten the burden on labs.

The AHA said in a letter to HHS that the proposed regulation would pose significant operational challenges for hospital labs, especially those that perform tests for external providers. Because the patients of these providers are not necessarily receiving care in the hospitals that own the labs, AHA noted, questions of patient authentication may arise. Therefore, AHA would like labs to have the ability to decline to provide the results unless the requester's identity can be confirmed.

In addition, AHA wants the results to be accompanied by an explanation of the difference between the raw data and the interpretation of that data, which is appropriately left to the physicians who ordered the tests.

HIMSS asked HHS to consider the potential cost impact of the rule on labs, including the cost of new interfaces between hospitals' lab systems and other components of their electronic health records. The society also wants the government to devote more attention to patient authentication requirements, and requests that the rule be aligned with the HIPAA requirements in the 2009 stimulus legislation. 

To learn more:
- read the AHA letter (.pdf)
- check out the HIMSS letter (.pdf)
- here's the AHA News piece

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