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Patient Privacy Protections Pending

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But that may have to wait until next year. A large part of Congress' health care efforts currently is centered on passing a patients' bill of rights and forming a Medicare prescription drug benefit.

In the meantime, patients may still have reason to take heart. The HHS rules are a good starting point, Goldman tells WebMD. "What we have to rely on right now is the goodwill of companies, for whom marketing is a greater driving force," she says.

Businesses have some legitimate complaints, she says, noting that the rules may unfairly hold health care providers such as hospitals responsible for the actions of their partners. But there is some urgency to get at least something done, she tells WebMD.

"The current system is not only shameful. It's undermining the quality of care," Goldman says, while stressing that about one out of six patients presently withholds information from health care providers due to the perceived lack of privacy protection.

Once finalized, those entities covered by the rules will have two years to comply.

 

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