Federal committee approves health information exchange consent rules

September 1, 2010

The Health and Human Services Department Health IT Policy Committee approved recommendations on when healthcare providers must obtain consent before exchanging patient health records electronically with other providers or health information exchange networks.

The Health and Human Services Department (HHS) Health IT Policy Committee approved recommendations on when healthcare providers must obtain consent before exchanging patient heath records electronically with other providers or health information exchange (HIE) networks.

The committee will send its recommendations to the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) of Health IT, which must choose whether or not to add the recommendations to its policies before the start of its health IT adoption campaign next year. The ONC had questions about patient consent policies for exchanges among providers.

Providers must be able to perform such information exchanges in order to qualify for incentive payments in the first stage of the meaningful use project beginning in 2011.

Consent might be necessary, however, when a physician gives up complete control of a patient's information after sending it through an HIE to another physician's office or testing lab, which can then add that data to their own databases. At that point, patients must be given the opportunity to give consent.

Technology that would enable a provider to filter sensitive information from the clinical record before it is transmitted through an HIE is in the early stages of development.