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Lessons learned: HHS follows up eConsent pilot project with website

Following its eConsent pilot, HHS created a site aimed at helping providers and patients navigate the exchange and use of personal information.

Patients' use of electronic health information holds valuable importance for the patients themselves, providers, payers and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As more patients recognize the value of having their information available electronically, it's likely that providers with access to patient records will exchange and share more data with other providers. HHS explored that level of patient engagement in its eConsent pilot this year.

In the past, physicians instructed patients to visit portals to schedule appointments, request medication refills and fill out their medical information prior to their appointments. If their information is shared electronically, patients can avoid much of this work. Toward that end, HHS recently introduced a website that includes lessons learned, videos and additional information derived from the eConsent project.

As more providers move toward meaningful use stage 2 and information is exchanged among providers and HIEs, patients must be aware of the choices they have around how their health records can be accessed. As an increasing amount of data is shared between HIE participants, it will become critical for patients to understand how their data is being handled.

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"As patients become more engaged in their health care, it's vitally important that they understand more about various aspects of their choices when it relates to sharing their health in the electronic health information exchange environment," said Joy Pritts, ONC's chief privacy officer, in a written statement about eConsent.

The website details three key areas of patient education:

Patient education and engagement. This entails providing details to patients about how their information will be used, what consent choices are available to them and who may release their information.

Technology. The site explores tools and ways to leverage technology to restrict access to specific sensitive portions of patient information and defines how these restrictions can be communicated and maintained.

Law and policy. Following the baseline that HIPAA creates around patient privacy, the website can provide additional details and education around other federal or state laws that may affect how patient information is being managed and exchanged.

About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development with Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.

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