HealthlinkNY, which operates the health information exchange (HIE) in the southern tier of New York and the Hudson Valley, is now giving patients the go ahead to download and print customized consent forms for every provider they see, and bring signed consent forms to their providers at their next medical appointment.
Officials of HealthLinkNY attest that New York State has the nation’s largest health information network, capable of connecting every hospital, physician group, medical laboratory, and healthcare provider so they can share patient records and improve care. Late in 2014, the Southern Tier Healthlink (STHL) and Taconic Health Information Network and Community (THINC) merged into one regional HIE, HealthLinkNY. The HIE serves as the region’s access point to the Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY).
But its success is riding on one thing: getting patients to just say “yes” to allow providers to share said data. “Yes” means signing a consent form, because different provider organizations can’t share electronic patient data with each other without the patient’s written consent.
But now, patients can go to the consent page on HealthlinkNY’s website to give their approval. For auditing and security purposes, New York State requires paper consent forms and a photo ID for verification. Patients also need to submit a separate consent form to every different provider organization they see. HealthlinkNY is the first in New York State to offer patients downloadable consent forms customized for each of their participating providers, officials say.
“We’ve constructed a remarkable network to deliver vital information to providers with just a click, but its effectiveness depends on a single piece of paper—a signed consent form from the patient,” Christina Galanis, president and CEO of HealthlinkNY, said in a statement. “That gives patients total control over who sees their medical records. When patients say ‘yes,’ the information trigger is turned on, and patients get better and timelier care because their authorized clinicians have a much clearer picture of the patient’s history.”
Consumers who download consent forms will see they have two choices: they can either give their consent or deny their consent to make their records available at any time, even in a medical emergency. “Unless you specifically deny consent, emergency physicians and other clinicians are allowed to access your records in a case where you are non-responsive and unable to give consent,” Galanis said. “In reality, very few people deny consent—only about 6 percent— because wouldn’t you want the person who treats you to have all the information he or she could possibly have?” She added that all data is encrypted and no temporary passwords are issued.