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Professor Robert Field Discusses Efforts to Relax HIPAA Protections on ABC Action News, WHYY

April 01, 2013

Professor Robert Field, a nationally recognized expert on health policy and public health law, appeared on ABC 6 Action News on April 2 to discuss efforts to amend HIPAA's privacy restrictions.

According to ABC, a local father, Gregg Wolfe, is lobbying lawmakers to amend HIPAA's privacy restrictions following his son's heroin overdose.  Wolfe claims he might have been able to prevent the overdose had he been able to access his son's medical records containing information about his son's heroin addiction. 

Field claimed that relaxing privacy protections is a difficult balancing act (video at 1:52). On one hand you need to protect the trust between patient and doctor to ensure effective care, while, on the other, you have situations like Wolfe's where the release of information might have been helpful, Field said.  However, Field added, you cannot have it both ways. 

As he told WHYY Newsworks in an article published March 29,  "people may not see their health-care provider, they may not be completely frank with them, and then the provider can't give them appropriate treatment."

Tension definitely exists between those who want more access to their loved one's medical records and those who value stringent medical record privacy protections under HIPAA, Field said. Despite numerous efforts to loosen privacy protections, "nothing has been changed along the lines of making it easier to release information. It's generally making it harder," Field said. 

Field has also previously discussed this issue in the Congressional Quarterly.