SAMHSA Substance Use Data Redaction Final Rule

What if there was a disease affecting 27.1 million people in the United States, that killed over 33,000 people in one year or about 91 people a day? What if this same disease cost the United States healthcare system about $78.5 billion? What if researchers could not study this disease in order to provide information on the effectiveness or cost of the various treatment options available? Unfortunately, this was a reality for researchers in the substance use disorder field. For the last two years, in an effort to protect patient privacy, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began redacting data related to substance use disorder treatment and diagnosis for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

Fortunately, the situation has now changed. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency (SAMHSA), issued a final rule effective February 17, 2017 to facilitate access to substance use treatment data for the research community. As the landscape of health care moves toward a more integrated care model and with an increase in use of electronic health records, SAMHSA has revised the rule to allow CMS to share substance use treatment records with investigators in the substance use research field who provide appropriate safeguards to protect patient confidentiality.

The changes outlined in the final rule allow researchers to link substance use treatment records with other data sets to provide a more accurate reflection of healthcare utilization and co-occurring conditions in those with substance use disorders. This will also allow health services researchers to better identify the economic impact of substance use disorders on the US healthcare system. To obtain more information contact [email protected]