HIPAA Inhibits Health Care Research, Survey Says

Lora Bentley

Here's an interesting twist on the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act: A new survey says HIPAA's patient information privacy provisions inhibit health care research. WebWire reports:

Implementation of the health care privacy law widely known as HIPAA, or the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has severely eroded the process of scientific research, delaying some clinical studies and curtailing others before they even begin, reports Roberta B. Ness, M.D., M.P.H., in this week's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The national survey of more than 1500 epidemiologists, commissioned by the Institute of Medicine, National Academies of Science, revealed that two-thirds of them believe the HIPAA privacy rule makes medical research substantially more difficult. Specifically, almost 40 percent of respondents said HIPAA hikes research costs, and half of them say HIPAA increases the length of time necessary to complete research projects, the story says.



And those aren't the only problems. As Ness points out:

[T]here is a perception that HIPAA may even be having a negative effect on public health surveillance practices, and a lot of it is because of this variability in interpretation. Some public health departments are defining a much broader portfolio of activities as research, and, therefore, are subject to HIPAA, more than other health departments. At this point, we're not absolutely sure what that means in terms of public health -- whether this poses any threat to combating epidemics or other dangers.

On top of all that, most survey respondents (75 percent) don't think HIPAA is accomplishing the goals that legislators had in mind.

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