To address that thorny issue, ONC has hired APP Design to develop an electronic consent initiative that will educate patients about their choices.
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's (ONC's) Office of the Chief Privacy Officer has awarded a $1.2 million contract to APP Design to support its e-Consent initiative, which seeks to find ways to educate patients about their options for sharing their health information.
Under the contract, awarded September 29, APP Design, based in Itasca, Ill., is required to develop innovative ways to educate and inform patients of their options to share their health information electronically in a clinical setting. The vendor has also been tasked with helping patients understand the consequences of those choices.
By utilizing APP Design's RHIOnet and Story Engine tools as a platform for the pilot, the project will involve educational features and provide feedback for future applications though a survey.
However, developing an e-consent system won't be an easy task, according to Sharon Canner, senior director of Advocacy at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME).
[ Legally, EHRs are double-edged swords: They protect clinicians from malpractice litigation but also put them at greater risk. See Will Your EHR Land You In Court? ]
"E-Consent is an extremely important, yet difficult, effort. This will be a very difficult task for both patients and clinicians. Patient data can be used in a multitude of ways across the continuum of care," Canner told InformationWeek Healthcare. "If the e-Consent model is too granular, you end up disrupting the clinician's workflow and you run the risk of confusing the patient. If it's not granular enough, a patient may unknowingly choose to deny important data that providers need to improve care."
According to a statement from APP Design, the e-Consent pilot program will be conducted at four provider sites within Western New York's Health Information Exchange, HEALTHeLINK. Utilizing HEALTHeLINK's companion administrative transaction network, HEALTHeNET, APP Design will develop a graphical user interface that will allow patients to access information regarding their options to share their medical data as well as encourage patients to engage in follow-up questions. The system will also provide a method to capture and record the patient's choice about sharing health information. HEALTHeNET uses RHIOnet, a secure, Web-based, healthcare information exchange system that delivers healthcare data to caregivers in different locations.
"Being awarded this contract will allow us to further demonstrate how our solutions, specifically RHIOnet, can enable HIEs to successfully deliver more complete and comprehensive patient information," Robert Quinn, president of APP Design, said in a statement.
As healthcare delivery organizations move toward Meaningful Use Stages 2 and 3 and connect to health information exchange networks, a patient’s ability to understand whether and when their healthcare provider can share their health information electronically will be critical.
"Categorizing use cases into well thought-out 'buckets' so the patient understands where and under what circumstance their data is being shared is important. Equally important is enabling providers the ability to have the needed data at the right point in time to make an informed clinical decision," Canner said. "As we move towards more robust and ubiquitous exchange of health information, I hope this process focuses heavily on balancing what patients want with what the providers need. If this can be done correctly, patient safety will not come at the expense of patient privacy. And patient privacy will not hinder patient safety."
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