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Opinion: Privacy laws are hurting the care of patients with addiction

When my grandfather was a private practice pediatrician in Queens, making house calls in exchange for eggs and hand-knitted hats, medical communications were often between one doctor and his or her patient (or parent). As a primary care provider to adults with opioid use disorder, I need to communicate with many other clinicians. Privacy rules can thwart me from doing that.

The U.S. medical system has changed dramatically in the past century, creating complicated structures that require doctors to communicate not just with their patients but also with other doctors, laboratories, radiology centers, pharmacies, and insurance companies. We rely on this flow of information to improve patient care and safety. It’s important for doctors to confer with each other when making medical decisions, especially for patients who have multiple medical issues. Pharmacists manage complicated medication regimens requested by multiple prescribers in order to avoid harmful drug interactions. Insurance companies ensure that everyone gets paid.

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