Health Privacy Rules Stand – For Now

April 12, 2001 ( - In a surprising move, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson today announced the HHS health information privacy regulations will go into effect as written - and as scheduled - on April 14, 2001.

Thompson did note, however, that changes to the regulation may be issued in the form of guidelines during the two-year implementation period.

The decision to let the regulations stand was surprising, both in light of recent indications from the Secretary’s office, as well as the rollback of a number of regulations signed into law in the waning days of the Clinton Administration.

HHS reportedly received more than 24,000 written comments on the issue, though “thousands” were “clearly part of mass mailing efforts in support of a particular view or concern,” according to Thompson.

Future guidance

Thompson said that HHS would make it clear through guidelines or recommended modifications that:

  • Doctors and hospitals will have access to necessary medical information about a patient they are treating, and will be able to consult with other physicians and specialists regarding a patient’s care.
  • Patient care will be delivered in a timely and efficient manner, not unduly hampered by the confusing requirements surrounding consent forms.  Specifically referenced were the fact that pharmacists will be able to fill prescriptions over the phone.
  • Parents will have access to information about the health and well-being of their children, including information about mental health, substance abuse or abortion

– Nevin Adams    

The press release is at “