ONC will coach consumers about privacy, security in HIE

By Mary Mosquera
09:15 AM

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will conduct a nationwide campaign to educate the public about the importance of privacy and security in the electronic exchange of their personal health information. ONC said it will include consumer attitudes and preferences when mobile devices are used to communicate health data.

ONC will gauge responses from 40,500 consumers and health professionals over the next two years to help guide its strategies, messages and websites, according to an announcement in the Nov. 1 Federal Register.

[See also: The 5 roadblocks HIEs face. And Q&A: On the trials and tribulations of unlocking patient data.]

ONC will use focus groups, surveys, website usability testing and in-depth screening to gain feedback. The public may comment on this information collection for 60 days.

ONC is collaborating with the Office of Civil Rights, which oversees health information privacy in the Health and Human Services Department, to develop the communications to build support for the meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs), educate consumers about privacy and security and increase participation in health information exchange.

The HITECH Act called for the communications campaign to help accelerate health information exchange, which has the potential to improve quality of care, safety and efficiency. 

[Commentary: Why RECs and HIEs need each other.]

“At the same time, this environment also poses new challenges and opportunities for protecting health information, including methods for individuals to engage with their healthcare providers and affect how their health information may be exchanged,” ONC said.

Consumers are beginning to take a central focus in ONC activities to drive health IT adoption. ONC also recently launched an effort to get consumers more involved in their health care and activities to explain the value of EHRs, personal health records (PHRs) and mobile phone applications.