SAMHSA Releases Final Patient Privacy Rule on Substance Use Data Sharing

On Friday, January 13, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a final rule on patient privacy with the intent of making it easier to share medical records of patients undergoing substance abuse treatment in federally funded drug and alcohol treatment programs. In a press release, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Kana Enomoto stated that, “Today’s changes will further enhance health service research, integrated treatment, quality assurance and health information exchange activities while at the same time safeguarding the essential privacy rights of people seeking treatment for substance use disorders.”

The final rule closely follows the proposed rule, which received widespread criticism. Although the final rule makes important updates, a coalition of health care organizations expressed concern as they feel it still does not align substance abuse privacy protections with HIPAA and more work needs to be done.

Additionally, SAMHSA issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPRM) that seeks clarifications and further information regarding payment and health care operations, specifically regarding the role of contractors, subcontractors and legal representatives. Comments on the SNPRM will be accepted through February 17, 2017.