Use of online medical record data restricted

Use of online medical record data restricted

Federal workers cannot use information gleaned from electonic medical records for unrelated investigations under a presidential order issued last month.

President Clinton issued the order in reference to new standards under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act of 1996. Regulations under HIPAA typically apply only to health care plans, providers and clearinghouses, not to other organizations and individuals, including federal investigators, who gain access to the information during health oversight activities.

Unless federal officials can show that the "balance of relevant factors weighs clearly in favor of its use," they must follow more stringent guidelines established for the collection of evidence for law enforement purposes, the decree states.

-T. L. Orr

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