New hope for resolving thorny sensitive PHI issues in health data exchanges

Uncertainty and disagreement regarding how to handle behavioral and other sensitive healthcare data such as HIV and reproductive health records has been a stumbling block for healthcare in various ways. Potential patients don’t seek help because of fear their records will be too widely released and the patients permanently harmed as a result. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), one quarter of adults needing mental healthcare go without due to this fear, with that statistic rising to over 35% among young adults.
Meanwhile, healthcare providers want to provide more effective treatment by coordinating physical and behavioral care. To do this, sensitive PHI must be transferred from behavioral to physical care providers. However, behavioral healthcare and physical healthcare providers operate under different and sometimes mutually contradictory rules about how patient records may be handled and shared. Many providers have technology to handle only “less sensitive” healthcare records. Because the whole issue is in such a state of flux, little software exists so far to properly handle sensitive PHI. Even if the technology to handle sensitive data was easily available, purchasing additional software to handle such data is out of financial reach for many providers.

In the midst of all this, providers, vendors and federal agencies move forward in developing solutions. A new technological approach is to place patient-directed privacy controls on EHRs. The federal initiative promoting this type of technology is called DS4P — data segmentation for privacy. A pilot software system being tested by University of Michigan Health and an Ann Arbor behavioral health provider compares behavioral health record requests made by UMH against the list of patient consent forms which are stored in the system. If a patient consent form in the system matches the request, the information is released to UMH through a secure portal.

See Modern Healthcare article at “Tech fixes ease sharing of sensitive patient data”

Posted in ARRA, Higher Ed, HIPAA, HITECH Act, News, Privacy & Security Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

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