New rules proposed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to expand the rights of Americans to access their personal health information will empower patients to understand their health condition better, according to Quest Diagnostics.

“Patient engagement in health care decision making is vital to promoting better health outcomes and reduced costs in our health care system,” said Surya N. Mohapatra, PhD, chairman and chief executive officer, Quest Diagnostics. “HHS’s proposed rule will help to empower patients to understand their health condition and discuss their health care options more constructively with their physicians.”

In many states, laboratory test results can only be provided to “authorized individuals,” typically a physician or health care provider, rather than directly to a patient. Under the new rules, patients would be able to gain access to test result reports directly from labs. The new rules would also ensure that labs covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) provide such information, upon request, directly to patients or their personal representatives.

The proposed rules were announced by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on September 12, 2011, during the first-ever HHS Consumer Health IT Summit, a meeting of consumers, providers, and the public and private sectors to discuss “how to empower consumers to be partners in their health and care through health IT.”

Source: Quest Diagnostics