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Consumer Consent…Again

Mental health and addictions professionals require tools. For a couple decades, Terry McLeod has been a trailblazer providing those tools in the form of Electronic ...Read More

I know, I’ve belabored the “release of information” subject.

It’s good to know somebody else is thinking about this, and in a far-reaching way. SATVA, our industry’s software vendors’ association recently posted an interesting article on Behavioral Healthcare’s magazine that lays out the importance of a “consent to disclose” form (I’ve called it a Release Of Information form or ROI) in the Electronic Health Record (EHR). Without a single, signed form in common, disclosure of the consumer’s health information can’t be shared without breaking at least one of 32 federal and state laws that protect consumers’ confidentiality. The goal would be to make a common electronic form available in all EHRs and RHIOs in order to assure a consumer gets the best treatment from any healthcare facility he walks into and maintains health information confidentiality.

Naturally, consumer records electronically shared among their professionals providing care can reduce duplicate tests, duplicate data input and other wasteful activities, and even prevent medication errors that could cause big trouble for consumers, simply because the professionals are acting as a team, not lone guns. None of these benefits can be realized without a solid, mutually accepted ROI or consumer consent agreement (same thing, I’ll stick with ROI for now)

SATVA even delivered a specification for the consent form, (amazing these guys agree on something given the competitive spirit in the software industry), stating a number of ways RHIOs are affected by the protective laws I mentioned above.

The ROI would deliver instant approval to share information, which means more timely treatment for the consumer and less pain, whether physical or emotional. Wouldn’t it be great if you moved from Oregon to New York and your new professional had access to your chart across the country when you came in for your appointment? That’s electronically possible now, except for the lack of an ROI.

So, why is this little stumbling block to all these benefits a problem, you ask? There must be a way to overcome the problems.

Right now, all it takes is a signed form to share the data between providers and that can be faxed. A major drawback of this system is that most providers have completely different forms to fill out, and filling out multiple forms them takes expensive professional time. Then there’s the clerical time and energy spent faxing different professionals for their specific ROI forms, getting them signed, and then faxing them back before the patient record is transferred. Then, depending on the professional’s legal limitations and technological status, the information sought (could be many pages) would need to be faxed, mailed or shipped. Now multiply all that effort and trouble by the number of physical and mental health professionals involved in the consumer’s care.

Oh, and next, multiply that by the number of consumers seeking care that day among all the professionals involved. The energy and expense both mount up.

I’ve commented quite a bit on Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) or Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs), and they’re key to this subject. RHIOs need to become intimately acquainted with those laws and rules I mentioned earlier…they have the same responsibilities to consumers as software vendors and professionals. This means the electronic ROI would need to be a common design among all the software vendors, professionals and their RHIOs, and also maintain the consumer’s stamp of approval and specific mention of the professionals involved, whether it’s an individual or an organization. That’s quite a job, too, but it can be done more simply and elegantly with electronic transfer of the health information data. The ROI also needs to cover why the consumer’s information is being shared; is the reason clinical, financial or something else? Since a RHIO can’t pass along information to anybody who’s a member without authorization, some sort of accountability needs to be built into the string of data sharing and availability to assure consumer confidentially.

Like I said, it’s a big job. The good news is that SATVA says they’ve already built it and have tentative approval of SAMHSA, and all the professionals and RHIOs need to do is buy it…but then again, maybe it’s free.

How likely is that?

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