NCPA: New Privacy, Security Rules Will Burden Pharmacies

The National Community Pharmacists Association is pushing for less stringent regulations under the Health Information Technology Act, saying the new rules will be unnecessarily costly and time-consuming for independent pharmacies.

Although it may seem like just yesterday when pharmacies had to get a handle on complying with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) requirements, health care reform is bringing more regulations-some of which one pharmacy group is seeing as unnecessarily burdensome to community pharmacies.

"Community pharmacies have acted proactively to bring the efficiencies of health information technology into their practice settings, but certain requirements in the HITECH [Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health] Act either need further clarification or modification to maintain our ability to effectively serve patients," wrote John Coster, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), in a letter to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

One change under HITECH would require covered entities to be held accountable for all disclosures made through an electronic health record over a 3-year period, as opposed to only "nonroutine" disclosures, as called for under HIPAA. According to the NCPA, instead of possibly forcing pharmacies to invest in new technology that would allow for compliance with the new mandate, the rule should be to require a listing of disclosures for payment, treatment, and operations purposes upon patient request.

Other changes addressed by NCPA further deal with patient disclosure issues, as well as contracts with business associates, payments for data exchanges, and federal civil action proceedings for those in noncompliance with the new rules.

"We are committed to working constructively with the government and our private partners to ensure the systematic changes work, but as currently configured, community pharmacies could become entangled in a morass of new requirements that will do little to serve patients, but will add costs and burdens to small businesses," asserted Coster in the letter.

The full letter is available at http://www.ncpanet.org/pdf/leg/ocrfollowupletter.pdf.