The American Hospital Association (AHA) wrote a letter to the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee concerning how the Congress can help lessen the regulatory burden on hospitals and health systems. The increased regulatory activity on hospitals and health systems is counter-efficient and negatively affects patient care. For example, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released in 2016 49 rules contained in about 2,400 pages. Additionally, there is even more sub-regulatory guidance like FAQs published to help implement administrative policies. Because of the sheer volume and scope of the regulatory changes, the field is having difficulty absorbing them.
The AHA’s suggestions to Congress cover many areas but two are particularly related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The first suggestion is a solution to a problem on sharing patient health data. Currently, HIPAA Regulations do not allow sharing of patient information for healthcare operations, including usage for quality assessment, improvement activities, outcomes evaluation, evaluation of provider competence and performance, etc. to providers even if they have or previously had a patient relationship. In an integrated health setting, it is difficult for patients to coordinate all the information because they do not have a relationship with all the healthcare providers.
AHA recommends that HIPAA should permit beneficial sharing of patient health data. Access to patients’ medical data should not be restricted to all the participant providers in an integrated care setting, whether or not the patient has a direct relationship with the organizations that need to use the data.
The second suggestion is to give treating providers permission to access patients’ records of substance use disorder treatment. The current set up is that patients need to give their consent before treating providers can view the records. This in a way is a stumbling block to integrated patient care. Without this important information, patients may be in danger.
AHA suggested a reform to align the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (HR 3545) and HIPAA regulations to allow sharing patients’ information including substance use disorder treatment records to facilitate patient treatment, payment and healthcare operations. With such changes, healthcare providers and organizations with direct treatment relationship will have access to the patient’s medical records. There is also a suggestion from AHA for Congress to cancel Stage 3 Meaningful Use requirements. This will reduce regulatory requirements on hospitals and health systems that do not have clear benefits to patient care.