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HIMSS Supports VA Proposed Rule to Ease Data Sharing for Veterans

March 28, 2018
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) is voicing support for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) proposed rule to make it easier to veterans to share their medical data with community providers and researchers.

As stated in a recent Politico eHealth newsletter, “Under current law, the VA has to have physical possession of a written consent form from the veteran; the new rule will allow community partners to attest that the patient has provided consent.”

Indeed, in the letter, the Chicago-based HIMSS said that it “appreciates and supports the clarification that the proposed rule offers on changing the consent requirements around authorizing the VA to release a patient’s confidential VA medical record to a health information exchange (HIE) community partner.”

HIMSS’ letter continued, “This proposed reinterpretation of existing regulations will help facilitate better sharing of patient’s records with community healthcare providers, health plans, governmental agencies, and other entities participating in electronic HIEs.  This change is critical—it will allow community healthcare providers and other HIE community partners to deliver better-informed medical care to our nation’s veterans by accessing and using the information contained in their own VA medical record.”

HIMSS also stated that it is supportive of the two new criteria put in place to support this proposed rule— specifically that HIE community partners must provide written attestation that the patient has submitted legally sufficient consent to them, and that VA has the ability to retrieve or obtain this written consent within 10 business days of the HIE’s attestation.

The letter said that these two criteria “provide the patient privacy safeguards needed to facilitate broader exchange,” adding, “We strongly urge VA to encourage its community partners to make the exchange process primarily electronic to minimize any administrative burden on the Department or its partners.”

What’s more, HIMSS said that it supports the use of an opt-out model for providing patients’ medical information to its HIE community partners, pointing to recent data which found that 24 state HIEs had implemented an opt-out policy for data sharing. In an opt-out model, patient data is automatically sent to the HIE and patients must request that their data be removed.

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