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Consumer Reports urges caution in potential changes to HIPAA privacy and security rules

On February 12, 2019, Consumer Reports submitted these comments in response to the Request for Information (RFI) issued by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Request for Information on Modifying HIPAA Rules to Improve Coordinated Care.

Consumers have a vested interest in the success of efforts to improve value-based care and care coordination as well as ensuring that the time-honored bonds of trust that come with private interactions between patients and their providers are upheld as sacrosanct. Both are achievable – privacy must not be compromised to achieve the goal of value-based care and improved care coordination. For that reason, Consumer Reports urges caution in proposing to modify Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules. We also encourage the OCR to pursue changes that would improve patients’ access to their own medical information as well as easing the flow of information, which in some cases could be improved without changing the rules as they exist today.

Our responses to the questions, which are answered selectively in numerical order, reflect four major themes:

  1. Patients must be in control of how and when information is shared about them.
  2. Privacy policies must be meaningful for patients.
  3. Patients must have timely access to their own medical information.
  4. Significant caution should be exercised in describing patient privacy as a “burden.”

Overall, Consumer Reports strongly encourages OCR to promote policies that reflect patient’s needs and priorities while maintaining strong privacy and confidentiality protections.