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FAQ: How substance abuse confidentiality applies to HIE privacy

One of the biggest concerns people have about national health information exchange (HIE) is the maintenance of patient privacy. Patients who attend drug or alcohol abuse programs may be particularly sensitive to the privacy of their personally identifiable information.

The confidentiality of patient records maintained by federally funded substance abuse programs is governed by the substance abuse confidentiality regulations found in Part 2 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations, also known simply as “Part 2.” To help individuals understand the implications of Part 2 for HIE privacy, the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, with help from the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology, has released a document containing frequently asked questions (FAQ) about applying the substance abuse confidentiality regulations to HIE.

The document is intended to serve as a reference for individuals concerned about HIE privacy, including policymakers and technical developers. A meeting is planned for August 4, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., to allow individuals to provide input on the usefulness of the FAQ.

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