Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations, which took effect on April 14, 2003, placed new constraints on the use of protected health information for research purposes.
To review practices of research subject privacy protection in otolaryngology in order to determine steps necessary to achieve compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.
Articles appearing in 2001 in 3 widely circulated otolaryngology journals were classified according to study design. The "Methods" section of each article was reviewed to determine whether the informed consent and institutional review board processes were clearly documented.
Descriptive studies involving case reports and case series were more common than observational studies that include a control group (66% vs 11%). Few case series documented the consent process (18%) and institutional review board process (19%). Observational designs demonstrated better documentation of the consent process (P<.001) and the institutional review board exemption and approval process (P<.001).
Methods used to protect subject privacy are not commonly documented in case series in otolaryngology. More attention needs to be given to research subject privacy concerns in the otolaryngology literature in order to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.