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Record sharing rules approved

Published (3/11/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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Legislation passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 calls on states to monitor health information exchanges — for example, the sharing of a patient’s electronic medical record among doctors at different hospitals and clinics. Minnesota health care providers stand to receive upwards of $400 million in Medicare and Medicaid incentives if the state can show it has a system for regulating the companies that facilitate these exchanges.

In response, Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth) sponsors HF3279, which would create a state board to oversee companies that conduct health information exchanges. The companies would be required to obtain a state certificate of authority and follow nationally recognized standards, including maintaining patient privacy and security.

“It’s designed to ensure that we have one comprehensive system for exchanging information across delivery settings and across providers,” Huntley told the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee March 4.

The bill was approved and sent to the House Civil Justice Committee, which gave its approval March 8. It now goes to the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee. A companion, SF2974, sponsored by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Opponents cite violations of individual rights and patient safety as reasons why electronic medical records shouldn’t have been allowed in the first place. Making records easier to share would only make things worse, they say.

“If it’s put into law, it will further destroy and interfere with the doctor-patient relationship,” said Dr. Karen Effrem, a board member with the Alliance for Human Research Protection. She believes patients will not be as forthcoming about potentially embarrassing health conditions if they’re unsure who could learn about them.

“Our privacy laws are stricter in this state than in practically any other,” Huntley said, “and we already have things in law that people can refuse to have their records sent any place. … That does not change by this bill.”

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