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U.S. proposes direct patient access to lab tests

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. medical patients would be able to get their laboratory test results directly from the labs rather than wait for a copy from their doctors under a new rule proposed by federal health officials.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday proposed new rules giving patients more rights to access their health information.

Speaking at a meeting on consumer health information technology, Sebelius recounted her own frustrations with a lack of communication between doctors that led to extra testing or having to refile the same forms over and over again.

The proposed rule would amend the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to require that labs covered by HIPAA provide test results to patients or their personal representatives in a secure manner.

U.S. health regulators have been promoting innovation in health IT, and especially health information access and exchange, in a broader effort by President Barack Obama's administration to update the U.S. medical records system.

In May, HHS proposed another rule allowing patients to see a list of everyone who has accessed their electronic medical records.

The HHS is accepting comments on the proposed rule for 60 days. To read the proposal, see http://r.reuters.com/rub73s .

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh; editing by John Wallace)

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