Patient Privacy Issues for Buprenorphine Treatment
In addition to standard HIPAA laws, federal regulations mandate strict confidentiality for information about patients being treated for substance use disorders (42 CFR Part 2). Additionally, the law requires written patient consent before information about substance abuse treatment can be disclosed to any other source. For buprenorphine treatment, this may include any communications with other physicians, treatment centers, significant others, or pharmacies.
Specific actions that are prohibited (without consent) include the following:
- providing information regarding a patient's past, present, or future participation in substance abuse treatment
- disclosing or transmitting a patient's substance abuse-related medical records
- use of a letterhead that identifies the office as a substance abuse treatment provider
- providing information about those who have applied for treatment or have been interviewed, regardless of whether they actually commenced treatment
- providing information about deceased patients
- verifying information that inquirers already possess -- in other words, a program can neither confirm nor deny that a patient was being treated there (SAMHSA, 1994b).
There are some exceptions to the disclosure laws, such as in case of medical emergencies or legal situations. Application of confidentiality laws in cases of substance abuse treatment is dependent on status and identification as a treatment facility. Review of the regulations should be made before determining when application is not required.