TMA Supports Privacy Law Clarification on Training Requirements

TMA Testimony by Howard Marcus, MD

Senate Health and Human Services Committee
Senate BIll 1609
April 16, 2013

Good morning madam chair, Senator Schwertner, and members of the committee. I’m Howard Marcus, MD, an internist here in Austin. On behalf of the 47,000 physicians and medical student members of TMA, I am here to express our strong support for Senate Bill 1609.

The 2011 Texas Legislature passed House Bill 300, with TMA’s support. We recognize the leadership of Chair Nelson, who has been involved with every privacy bill this state has passed, including House Bill 300 sponsored by the chair of House Public Health Committee, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst. HB 300 further strengthened the state law protecting the privacy of Texans’ medical records. That law, however, unintentionally created some questions for physician practices in their attempt to comply fully with the new training requirements.

SB 1609 simply makes the following four clarifications to the existing law in recognition of the need for scalability and flexibility in completing the training requirements.

  1. SB 1609 requires each covered entity to provide training to employees of the covered entity, rather than a “training program.” The word “program,” which appears in current law, differs from the language in federal privacy law, which requires “training” without specifying the particular format of that training (e.g., program versus reviewing policies and procedures, informal discussion, document review, etc.). By avoiding a mandate on providing training in a particular format, this proposed change to Texas law would better recognize the scalability and flexibility necessary to aid small-practice compliance. It also would reduce expenses associated with complying with a state law training requirement that could be read as requiring attendance at a live training seminar or webinar.
  2. Next, the substitute for SB 1609 requires an employee of a covered entity to complete training not later than the 90th day after the date the employee is hired by the covered entity, rather than the 60th day, which is current law. TMA understands the desire for a hard deadline by which training for new employees must occur. We appreciate the extension of that deadline in this bill from 60 days to 90 days. It provides greater flexibility for practices to schedule training for compliance purposes, while allowing us to continue focusing on patient needs.
  3. Next, SB 1609 modifies the period for retraining of employees of covered entities. We appreciate the proposal’s recognition that retraining need only occur when there is a material change in the law that affects an employee’s job duties. This acknowledges the importance of patient privacy while reducing expenses by foregoing repeated, duplicative training of the entire workforce.
  4. Finally, SB 1609 introduces a defined document retention period for the signed verification statement of training. The bill’s clarification that training verification documents need only be retained for six years, consistent with federal law, rather than indefinitely, is a welcome addition that reduces our administrative burden immensely.

In conclusion, we believe these focused amendments will improve compliance with the training requirements while preserving the strong protections in existing state privacy law. Again, we strongly support SB 1609 and urge you to pass it as soon as possible.

I will be happy to answer any questions.
 

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