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A mailed survey of 344 physicians conducted by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) in Tucson, AZ, shows almost unanimous opposition to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 privacy rules, scheduled for full implementation in 2003. Ninety-six percent thought the rules would further compromise patient privacy. Physicians already believe that third parties ask for information that physicians believe violates confidentiality, with 51% of respondents reporting such requests from government agencies and 70% from health plans. Nearly 87% reported that a patient had asked that information be kept out of the record, and nearly 78% of physicians said that they had indeed withheld information from a patient’s record due to privacy concerns. While only 19% admit to lying to protect a patient’s privacy, 74% state that they have withheld information for that reason.
"Patients are withholding information and doctors are lying because of privacy concerns," says Kathryn Serkes, AAPS public affairs counsel. "The obvious conclusion is that these rules will only exacerbate the situation to the point of distorted, incomplete, and potentially dangerous medical records becoming the norm. Physician ethics will be further challenged, the choice between government compliance and lying for a patient." The poll results were disclosed at a news conference in conjunction with the announcement of a lawsuit to be filed by AAPS against the Department of Health and Human Services challenging the regulations.