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Patients' Rights and Access to Medical Records

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Patients' Rights and Access to Medical Records The confidentiality of patient visits and medical records are essential in providing the highest quality of health care. Under penalty of law, a patient's medical records or any other information regarding the patient may only be released with his or her authorization. Exceptions to this are certain cases specified by law for example, health care providers are required to report certain communicable diseases such as measles. Many organizations and laws have been developed to maintain patient's rights of confidentiality and access to their medical record. Guided by the principle that confidentiality is essential in developing strong trust between patients and healthcare providers, the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) members are committed to ensuring that patient records are disclosed and only available to medical personnel and others acquired by law. In July 1999, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), introduced a new Patient's Rights Condition of Participation (CPO) that hospitals must meet to be approved for, or to continue participation in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The Health Insurance and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) addresses the security and privacy of health data and also issues standards for electronic health care transactions. The vast accumulations of personal medical data gives rise to serious privacy concerns as a result of the potential for misuse. The confidentiality of personal health information is an issue that affects every American. Secretary Donna E. Shalala, PhD from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services quoted, "Will our health records be used to heal or reveal us?" AHIMA, a professional... ... middle of paper ... ...rove the efficiency and effectiveness of the nation's health care system by encouraging the widespread use of electronic data in health care. Each time a patient visits a doctor, is admitted to a hospital, goes to a pharmacist, or sends a claim to a health plan, a record is made of the confidential health information. The use of this information is protected and pieced together by state laws, which leave gaps in the protection of patient's privacy and confidentiality. Together all of the programs mentioned are developing strategies to better protect patient records. AHIMA members foresee daily conflicts and challenges dealing with patient confidentiality and access to their records. The resolution of these issues combined will one day result in a comprehensive national standard that will enhance individual privacy, foster research and protect the public health.