Privacy Resources

KEEPING OUR MEDICAL PRIVACY PROMISES

Fact Sheet on the Practical Effects of the Original Rule -- and How Proposed Modifications Will Make It More Effective for Patients and Providers

Hospitals welcome proposed changes to medical privacy rules because we care for and about patients - we want all of our patients to be met at the hospital door with care and compassion, not paperwork and delay. Consumers overwhelmingly agree, as indicated by recent data collected for the American Hospital Association (AHA).

After reviewing the original rule, consumers do not support requiring patients to read, review and return a 10-page privacy notice and a separate consent form on each visit to the doctor, hospital or pharmacy and before they could be cared for. Hospitals were deeply distressed by visions of parents with sick or injured children being met at the hospital door not with care and compassion, but with a lengthy privacy notice that had to be read and a consent form that had to be signed -- all before care could be provided for the child. Yet, that is precisely what the original medical privacy regulations required.

Written acknowledgement will let us keep the intended promise of privacy regulations in HIPAA while ensuring that nothing gets in the way of patient care. That's what the common-sense modification recently proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services will do. Hospitals will continue inform patients of their privacy rights and, when it is convenient for patients, they acknowledge that they received the notice. In effect, written acknowledgement restores much-needed balance that protects patient privacy while removing barriers to responsive health care.

Patients retain the same privacy rights but don't have to deal with as much red tape and paperwork. Nor do they have to complete the same paperwork over and over again before they may receive the care they need. This solution works for consumers and hospitals because it is much less burdensome and redundant.

Research on the original rule raised important concerns…

Research shows that consumers support elimination of the unnecessary paperwork hassle created by the original rule. To test consumer reaction to the written consent requirements, the AHA commissioned an independent research firm, Market Strategies, to poll more than 900 consumers in April 2002. Here's what a majority of consumers said about the original mandatory written consent form:

  • It's an "unnecessary burden" to complete the same lengthy mandatory consent forms on every visit to their health care provider.
    • 86% think asking a sick person to sign a legal document that could be 10 pages when they see a doctor, nurse or pick up a prescription at the pharmacy is an unnecessary burden.

  • Seniors will be hurt most by the original requirement.
    • 85% agree that elderly Americans will be hurt the most because they see many different physicians and often have someone else pick up prescriptions for them.


  • It's common-sense - when patients are sick, care and compassion should come first, not paperwork.
    • 84% believe that time spent in a doctor's office should be spent on patient care, not filling out more paperwork.
       
    •  77% agree that the government should not make hospitals wait to schedule tests until the patient reads the privacy notice and signs and returns a consent form to the hospital.
       
    •  72% found that the money spent on the original requirement would be better spent on patient care. Specifically, providers will have to hire new people and buy new computers to keep track of these new legal documents.


  • Completing the same mandatory consent form every time is a paperwork nightmare that doesn't further patient privacy.
    • 84% believe that time spent in a doctor's office should be spent on patient care, not filling out more paperwork. 
    •  77% agree that the government should not make hospitals wait to schedule tests until the patient reads the privacy notice and signs and returns a consent form to the hospital. 
    •  72% found that the money spent on the original requirement would be better spent on patient care. Specifically, providers will have to hire new people and buy new computers to keep track of these new legal documents.

Eighty-five percent say that medical privacy is important to them personally. Overall, their support for the original rule consistently declines as they learn more specific information about all the paperwork involved.

The same patient privacy rights provided more effectively…

Considering these concerns, the proposal to replace redundant mandatory written consent requirements with a written acknowledgment came as welcome news. The patient privacy promises made by health care providers and lawmakers are kept by the proposed changes. For example, hospitals must still post privacy rights, distribute that document when patients are admitted and obtain a written acknowledgement of receipt. The changes provide patients with the same rights but in a more common-sense and effective way.

  • Important facts to consider about the proposed change:
  • It does not weaken, much less eliminate, any of a patient's privacy rights.
  • It does not change the fact that hospitals, doctors and others are still not permitted to use patients' information for marketing or research, without their express written permission. Instead, it allows hospitals to immediately work with patients and their doctors to provide or schedule medical treatment or tests.

Hospitals are still required to try and obtain written acknowledgment from a patient that he or she has received the privacy notice, but they can do so when it's convenient for the patient - not the government.

A proposal that patients, providers and policymakers should support…

A top priority for America's hospitals is safeguarding patient privacy while ensuring that nothing gets in the way of patient care. HHS' proposal to replace the redundant written consent requirement with patient acknowledgement helps us accomplish this goal. It is good for patients and hospitals and does not sacrifice patients' privacy rights.

 

Search

About AHA

Membership

Member Constituency Sections

Key Relationships

News Center

Performance Improvement

Advocacy Issues

Products & Services

Publications

Research & Trends

Locations

155 N. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, Illinois 60606
312.422.3000

800 10th Street, N.W.
Two CityCenter, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20001-4956
202.638.1100

1.800.424-4301