Patients Will Soon Have Direct Access To Their Medical Lab Test Results

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American patients will soon be able to get their medical test results directly from the laboratories that perform them under new regulations issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“The right to access personal health information is a cornerstone of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule,” wrote HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “Information like lab results can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their healthcare professionals, and adhere to important treatment plans.”

The so-called Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of 1988 govern the rules for accessing laboratory test information. Under the original law, labs in 39 states didn’t have to directly provide patients with requested information or were exempt from HIPAA rules granting patients the right to access test results. Instead, patients would have to obtain the information through the doctor or medical provider who ordered the test.

But the new rule, which takes effect in 60 days, would require labs to give patients copies of their test results within a month of the request. Officials say that the change is necessary in a medical landscape where providers are attempting to give Americans more information about their health care through technological advancements such as electronic health records.

According to Modern Healthcare, diagnostic companies are already praising the decision. “HHS’ final rule means millions of Americans who previously could not access their laboratory and other healthcare data from clinical laboratory companies like Quest can now do so without first requiring the approval of their healthcare provider,” said Dr. Jon Cohen, senior vice president of Quest Diagnostics.