Earlier this year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), finalized updates to the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulation at 42 CFR Part 2 ("Part 2").
Part 2 protects the confidentiality of patient records relating to substance use disorder education, prevention, training, treatment, rehabilitation or research. Under Part 2, a substance abuse program that receives federal funding may release patient information only with the patient’s written consent, unless an exception applies. Part 2 was originally enacted in 1975 to address the concern that individuals might be deterred from seeking treatment for substance use disorders due to a fear that their identities could be revealed.
According to SAMHSA, the updates to Part 2 reflect an effort to (1) facilitate the exchange of information within new integrated care models; (2) better align Part 2 requirements with those of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); and (3) address privacy concerns of patients who are confronting substance abuse disorders and their families.
Some of the major updates to Part 2 are listed below:
- The final rule permits the disclosure of Part 2 patient information to qualified personnel for purposes of conducting scientific research if the researcher meets certain requirements.
- The final rule provides that a patient may consent to disclosing their information using a general designation in certain circumstances, in order to allow patients to benefit from integrated health systems.
- The final rule permits disclosures of patient identifying information to certain contractors, subcontractors, and legal representatives for payment and health care operations activities without patient consent, if certain requirements are met.
- The final rule will assist users of electronic health records (EHRs) by permitting use of an abbreviated notice of prohibition on re-disclosure that is more easily accommodated in EHR text fields.