(HealthDay News) — In a final rule relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a patient or their personal representative can access their completed test reports directly from the laboratory, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).

The final rule is issued by three agencies within the HHS: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office for Civil Rights. Under the HIPAA rule, patients and their personal representatives can see or be given a copy of protected health information, with limited exceptions.

The final rule amends the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 regulations to allow laboratories to give a patient or designated personal representative access to the patient’s completed test reports. The rule eliminates the exception under the HIPAA 1996 Privacy Rule to access protected information when it is held by a laboratory. Patients can still access their laboratory results from their doctors, but these changes allow patients to receive test results directly from the laboratory.

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“The right to access personal health information is a cornerstone of the HIPAA Privacy Rule,” Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services, said in a statement. “Information like lab results can empower patients to track their health progress, make decisions with their health care professionals, and adhere to important treatment plans.”

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