Sept. 17—The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued online guidance to providers Tuesday on how to talk with patients about sharing their electronic medical records.

The website—designed for providers—delves into some of the laws, policies, and issues related to the electronic exchange of health information. It also includes strategies and tools to discuss the issue with patients and to provide them with educational materials.

Providers can find customizable tools from the eConsent pilot project by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Among the approaches developed by the pilot was using tablet computers to inform patients about options for electronically sharing their health information through federal health information exchanges (HIE).

“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” Joy Pritts, ONC’s chief privacy officer, said in a release.

The website is part of ONC’s efforts to inform, collect, and evaluate the information patients need to make an informed choice about electronic exchange of their health information. Among the goals of the website is increased patient comfort with sharing their healthcare information. HHS officials said they hope that patients will trust such data sharing more if they are informed about the ways health data is shared and allowed to decide whether to participate.

Federal law does not require healthcare providers offer patients a choice over whether their health information may be exchanged electronically, either directly or through a HIE. But when providers do offer patients a choice, HHS officials urged sharing with patients the type of information offered on the website.

Publication Date: Tuesday, September 17, 2013