Hospital Privacy Changes

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New hospital privacy rules go into effect this month. Hospital patients soon will have the authority to decide how much of their personal information can be released to friends, relatives, the clergy and even the general public.

The federal rules, which take effect April 14, will prohibit disclosure of information for reasons unrelated to health care unless hospital workers first obtain the patient's permission. That means there could be a delay in releasing information or even the withholding of information that has, in the past, been readily available.

Workers who violate the rules face maximum fines of $50,000 or ten years in jail.