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MEB amends opioid Rx guideline to include HHS HIPAA guidance

The State of Wisconsin Medical Examining Board (MEB) has added language to its Opioid Prescribing Guideline clarifying when physicians may share health care information without a patient’s permission. The new language reflects recent HIPAA guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, which describes how physicians are allowed to disclose information to certain third parties when there is a “serious and imminent threat to a patient’s health or safety.”

The new language, which was voted on at the MEB’s monthly meeting in Madison on Wednesday, will get official approval at the MEB’s April meeting. The draft language reads:

23) Sharing protected health information with a patient’s family members and loved ones.

Interpretive guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights indicates that HIPAA regulations allow health professionals to share health information with a patient’s loved ones in emergency or dangerous situations such as opioid overdose. HIPAA allows health care professionals to disclose some health information without a patient’s permission under certain circumstances, including in cases where a patient is incapacitated or unconscious, or where a serious and imminent threat to a patient’s health or safety exists. For example, a doctor whose patient has overdosed on opioids is presumed to have complied with HIPAA if the doctor informs family, friends, or caregivers of the opioid abuse after determining, based on the facts and circumstances, that the patient poses a serious and imminent threat to his or her health through continued opioid abuse upon discharge.

In other actions this month, the MEB:

  • Began the process to consider whether to extend the current continuing medical education (CME) requirement that two credits in each two-year CME cycle must include an MEB-approved course related to the opioid prescribing guideline (for licensed physicians who hold a DEA number). The current requirement is scheduled to end following the current CME cycle, which expires for most physicians in December 2019.
  • Formed a special workgroup to assess whether current law and regulations regarding physician reentry after extended time away from practice need alteration. Current administrative code allows a physician to renew a license up to five years after the last license was provided, so long as fees are paid and CME requirements are met. The MEB will compare that requirement with those in other states to determine if Wisconsin’s requirements need updating in order to properly protect the public.

Contact Mark Grapentine, JD, in the Society’s Government Relations Department for more information.

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