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Under new federal rules regulating medical record privacy, you must provide patients with clear, detailed, written information on privacy rights and how their information will be used. "We will have to establish policies and procedures for patients to review, amend, and/or correct medical information," says Janice Roach, executive director of Tri-City Regional Surgery Center in Richland, WA.
The privacy procedures must address who has access to protected information, how it will be used within the entity, and when the information would or would not be disclosed to others. Your policies and procedure shouldn’t allow everyone in your facility equal access to patient records, same-day surgery experts suggest. In a small environment such as a surgery center, people frequently think that their peers are their friends and so they trust them. Thus, the overall security tends to be more lax, experts warn.
Look at privacy as a professional issue, they advise. Have security built into your system and follow security guidelines. Only people who absolutely have to have access to records should have access to them, experts say. Set up office policies, and adhere to those policies from the beginning, they advise.
Some same-day surgery programs began to make changes to their privacy policies prior to publication of the final rule. For example, the executive director of the ambulatory surgery center at BayCare Health Systems in Green Bay, WI, re-examined the practice of posting the scheduled procedures for the day with patients’ names. "We’re becoming very cognizant of privacy issues and who needs to see that," says Karen Kohler, health information manager. "We’ve basically stopped posting that."
The facility even went as far as to stop paging when the next case was ready, although the page included only the doctor’s name and the time of the case, not the patient’s name, she says. "We’re trying to respect that patient’s privacy to the highest degree possible," Kohler says.
When examining your policies and procedures, ensure that patients have a means to inquire or complain about the privacy of their records, which is a requirement under the new rules.
For more information on privacy of medical records, contact:
• Marilou King, Esquire, Partner, McDermott, Will & Emery. Telephone: (202) 756-8244. E-mail: email@example.com. You can view a complete analysis of the regulations at the law firm’s Web site: www.mwe.com/news/indexhlu.htm.
• Karen Kohler, Health Information Manager, BayCare Health Systems, 2733 S. Ridge Road, Green Bay, WI 54304. Telephone: (920) 490-9046, ext. 1249. Fax: (920) 405-8003. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The regulation will be enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, which will provide assistance to providers in meeting the requirements of the regulation, including a toll-free line to help answer questions. Telephone: (866) 627-7748. TTY: (866) 788-4989.