ONC releases new white paper on patient consent

April 15, 2010

A new white paper released by the Department of Health and Human Services? Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology highlights five options and recommends additional research in relation to consumer consent possibilities for electronic health information exchange.

A new white paper released by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology highlights five options and recommends additional research in relation to consumer consent possibilities for electronic health information exchange. The report is designed to assist governmental advisory groups, including the privacy and security workgroup of the federal Health Information Technology Policy Committee, as they make recommendations on related matters.

"Our hope is that this white paper will help facilitate informed decision-making by detailing the issues, nuanced considerations, and possible tradeoffs associated with various consent options," says the report's lead author, Melissa Goldstein, an associate research professor of health policy at George Washington University. She and additional faculty and researchers at the university and at AcademyHealth, call for more research to determine the relative effectiveness and impact of the different models of consent.

The five consent options highlighted in the paper range from "no consent," where the health information of patients is automatically included, to "opt-in with restrictions," where no patient data are automatically made available for electronic exchange but the patient may allow a subset of select data to be included. The authors note that the consent model selected for electronic exchange, as well as the determination of which types of health information to exchange, has consequences for national policy goals, such as improving the quality of healthcare, promoting public health, engaging patients in their health care, and ensuring the privacy and security of personal health information.