HHS Site Aims To Educate About Health Information Exchange

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On Tuesday, HHS launched a website to help health care providers educate their patients on making informed decisions about health information exchange, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.


The "Meaningful Consent" site originates from a pilot project earlier this year in which HHS tested patient education functions on tablet computers (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 9/17).

The project was based on recommendations made by the Health IT Policy Committee in 2011.

Details of Website

The site offers "strategies and tools" for providers, including:

  • Background information;
  • Lessons from other providers (Bowman, FierceHealthIT, 9/17); and
  • Videos and customizable tools.

According to HHS, the site is meant to be used by:

Comments from HHS

In a statement, Joy Pritts -- chief privacy officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT -- said, "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."

HHS said that "[a]dequately informing patients of ... new models for exchange and giving patients the choice whether to participate is one means of ensuring that patients trust" new health IT (Murphy, EHR Intelligence, 9/17).

Privacy Advocates Criticize HHS' Efforts

Deborah Peel -- founder and chair of the not-for-profit Patient Privacy Rights -- called HHS' educational efforts flawed.

She suggested that HHS instead should have:

  • Mentioned patients' "fundamental right to health information privacy" in model notices for HIPAA compliance released this week; and
  • Informed patients of their right to a complete list of entities who have accessed their personal health information in electronic health records (FierceHealthIT, 9/17).

James Pyles -- a privacy lawyer with Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville -- agreed that HHS' new resource is "misleading."

"It's set up to make the public feel good, that they're somehow protected," Pyles said, adding, "But if you look at the part of the document that says these are your rights, there's really not much there" (Conn, Modern Healthcare, 9/17).

Health Affairs Blog Post About Website

In a Health Affairs Blog post about the site, Pritts and Kathryn Marchesini -- privacy team leader at ONC -- wrote, "As patients become more engaged in their health care, communication to and education of patients become even more important."

They said that "[p]atients may be unfamiliar with, and therefore may not trust, exchanging health information through certain types of third parties such as health information exchange organizations," adding that such trust is "essential to the success of emerging models for electronically sharing patient health information" (Marchesini/Pritts, Health Affairs Blog, 9/17).

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