A new regulation from the US Department of Health and Human Services permits patients or their designees to receive laboratory reports directly from labs, rather than through their physicians. The federal regulation preempts a number of state laws that previously permitted patients to receive laboratory results only through their doctors, or with their doctors' permission. The regulations also amend rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to require labs to provide copies of individual health information to any patient who requests it, within 30 days of the request. Labs were previously exempt from that HIPAA requirement. Under the new rule, labs will be able to charge a reasonable copying fee for the information they provide.
The goal of the new regulations is to increase patients' control over their own medical information. It will permit patients to build, either on their own or with the help of firms, their own comprehensive medical records. The regulations may improve patient safety, given findings that over 7% of physicians fail to report abnormal test results to their patients. The American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians are reported as having raised concerns that patients would not be able to understand laboratory results without their physicians' help, but neither group opposed the regulation.