The Honorable Robert F. Bennett
United States Senate
431 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Bennett:
The American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), representing nearly 11,000 professional laboratory scientists, endorses your legislation, S.881, the "Medical Information Protection Act of 1999." We support your efforts to provide patients with greater access to, and control over, their medical data, while maintaining the integrity of health care research and minimizing the administrative burdens on health care entities.
AACC is particularly pleased that S.881 makes a distinction between the "originating provider" and other health care entities. Many of the medical privacy bills before Congress fail to recognize that there are significant differences between primary and ancillary healthcare providers. For example, the private practice physician or hospital sees the patient and has access to his or her complete medical record or information about the episode of care. Laboratories and other secondary providers do not. Thus, we believe it is appropriate-as outlined in S.881-that the provider initiating treatment (e.g. physician, hospital, and skilled nursing facility), who is responsible for a patient's care, also be the main source for obtaining medical data, and for making decisions regarding any changes to the patient's medical record.
Similarly, AACC supports the reasonable approach adopted in this legislation regarding the disclosure and use of protected health information. S.881 adequately protects the rights of patients by requiring designated entities to obtain patients' authorization prior to releasing protected health information, while appropriately excluding the initial treatment encounter from this requirement. Thus, a laboratory reporting a test result to the ordering physician would not have to obtain specific authorization from the patient. We are also pleased that an individual disclosing protected health information under emergency circumstances, and in good faith, is not punishable by this Act.
S.881 also establishes safeguards for both protecting patient medical data and ensuring access to such data for research purposes. Researchers may obtain protected health information if they have approval from an institutional review board, a designated research committee or have in place a written policy to ensure the security of the data, among other options. AACC believes these oversight requirements are responsible and feasible.
By way of background, AACC is the principal association of professional laboratory scientists--including MDs, PhDs and medical technologists. AACC's members develop and use chemical concepts, procedures, techniques and instrumentation in health-related investigations and work in hospitals, independent laboratories and the diagnostics industry nationwide. The AACC's objectives are to further the public interest and educational activities and to help maintain high professional standards.
If you have any questions or we may be of any assistance, please call me at (405) 271-3571 or Vince Stine, Director, Government Affairs, at (202) 835-8721.
K. Michael Parker, PhD