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Medical privacy rules to take effect

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The first federal rules to protect the privacy of a patients' medical information will go into effect on Saturday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said Thursday.

The rules, proposed by President Bill Clinton before he left office, will undergo some modifications over time, according to Thompson. The rules require patients to give written consent before their medical information can be given out. One area that will be modified is written consent for oral communications and pharmacy orders.

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"This rule makes sure that private health information doesn't fall victim to the progress of the information and technology age," Thompson said, "where an array of data is readily available in computer systems and too often just a keystroke away from being assessed."

The rule covers all kinds of records: electronic, paper and oral.

Among other things, the final rules allow a patient to review his or her records and make changes if necessary.

According to law, the health care industry has two years to comply with the rules. So, providers must be in compliance by April 15, 2003, according to Thompson.



RELATED STORIES:
Expanded privacy rules perpetuate debate
January 2, 2001
Clinton, regulators issue sweeping new health privacy rules
December 20, 2000

RELATED SITES:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Insurance Association of America
Health Privacy Project

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