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About the Project

About This Project
A project of the George Washington University’s Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program, Health Information and the Law (, developed with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation,  is designed to serve as a practical online resource to federal and state laws governing access, use, release, and publication of health information. Constantly updated, the site addresses the current legal and regulatory framework of health information law and changes in the legal and policy landscape impacting health information law and its implementation with commentary and key documents. offers descriptions and links to individual federal and state statutes, is searchable on topics such as ‘antitrust,’ ‘confidentiality,’ ‘privacy,’ ‘quality,’ and ‘security of information,’ and provides timely analyses of key health information law issues. It also allows users to see and understand the application of the law in their own geographic areas and how state law intersects with federal requirements and programs.
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Project Staff   
Jane Hyatt Thorpe, JD

Lara Cartwright-Smith, JD, MPH

Elizabeth Gray, JD

Eleni Salyers


Why Health Information Law?
We are in an information revolution in health care, rapidly approaching an age in which all patient records and related information will be maintained electronically. Data on a scale only recently imaginable will pass between individuals and institutions and be used in ways we cannot yet predict as the current healthcare delivery system undergoes a major transformation towards a more robust, evidence-based endeavor highly reliant on health care data for purposes ranging from research to improved real-time care coordination.  At the same time, access to, use and release of health information, particularly individually identifiable data, is highly regulated at both the federal and state levels.  How do current laws enable or limit this transformation?  Are modifications of current laws or new laws necessary?  How does the current legal landscape affect the roles and priorities of health system stakeholders ranging from patients and consumers to employers and insurers, health care providers and states? How do emerging technologies create new legal standards? How do legal issues differ depending on the particular data exchange model in question? How can data inform the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health care?  All of these questions are critical to the future of the American health care delivery system. 
Although the move to electronic data raises new legal issues, it’s important to remember that many of the questions above have existed in some form for a long time. Some of the most pressing legal issues related to health information, such as privacy considerations and liability for health care quality stretch back hundreds of years, to the origins of modern medicine.  However, several things make today’s landscape different. Our legal system is addressing the role of information in these age-old relationships in new ways, from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA, 1996), the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (ARRA HITECH, 2009), and the Affordable Care Act (ACA, 2010) to state regulations on health insurance exchanges. Now more than ever, the law places real as well as perceived barriers and burdens on the collection and use of health care data. Important issues of privacy and consumer protection arise around new payment structures and new expectations for patient safety and high quality care. At the same time, there continues to be little awareness of the legal issues surrounding access to and use of health care data, both clinical and financial.
Health information law exists at the intersection of many crucial and interrelated fields: law, health care, consumer protection, information technology, public health, and insurance. Each small change can trigger a daunting set of issues and challenges. offers keys to understanding the laws that govern health information and the implications they can have across health care and beyond.
Below is a downloadable user guide for the website, which will help you navigate the Health Information & the Law website. 

HIL User Guide _5.21.2019.pdf242.08 KB