Feds to revamp confidentiality rules for addiction treatment

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials are proposing to revamp stringent patient confidentiality rules from the 1970s to encourage coordination among medical professionals treating people caught in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The idea is to make it easier to share a patient’s drug treatment history with doctors treating that person for other problems. That can stave off serious — even fatal — errors, like unwittingly prescribing opioid painkillers to a surgical patient with a history of dependence.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the proposal will maintain privacy protections for people receiving addiction treatment through federally funded programs.

Initially the rules were meant to reassure people seeking drug treatment that their medical information would not be shared with police. But they haven’t kept up in the age of electronic records.

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