Learn about meaningful consent and how it helps patients make an informed choice about the exchange of their electronic health information.
Electronic health information exchange (eHIE) — the way that health care providers share and access health information using their computers — is changing rapidly. One way some providers share and access information is through a third-party organization called a health information exchange organization (HIE).
HIEs help route information among various participating providers. In some HIEs, a provider can send out a broadcast query that asks all provider participants whether they have information on a particular patient. This method of asking for patient information is different from one provider directly contacting another to request a patient's information.
As eHIE increases, patient trust in HIEs must be ensured and patients may more frequently be asked to make a “consent decision." This consent decision concerns the sharing and accessing of the patient’s health information through an HIE for treatment, payment, and health care operations purposes.
Consent decisions may allow patients to determine the following, depending on the eHIE taking place:
- if their health information will be released,
- under what circumstances the release will take place (e.g., any time or emergencies only?), and
- by whom (e.g., health care providers? HIEs?).
Providers may choose to offer one or a combination of the following general types of consent policies [PDF - 733 KB]:
- Opt-in – Default is that patient health information is not shared. Patients must actively express their consent to share.
- Opt-out – Default is for patient health information to automatically be available for sharing. Patients must actively express their desire to not have information shared if they wish to prevent sharing.
Patients may choose to give providers and HIEs full access to their information, limited access, or no access at all.