ONC to explore, test patient e-consent for health data exchange

By Mary Mosquera
10:45 AM

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) intends to hire a vendor to explore and evaluate methods to electronically obtain and record from patients their informed consent about sharing their health data.

The vendor will also identify innovative ways to educate patients about how they can exercise their choices with their providers regarding the electronic exchange of their personal information, according to a June 22 announcement in Federal Business Opportunities.

The ability for patients to decide whether they should provide electronic consent in situations that would trigger it is a step that can build trust in sharing their health data and accelerate exchange.

[Q&A: ONC's Mostashari on the innovation electronic data will spark. See also: ONC 's Mostashari says "patients have a right to their records."]

In its recommendations, the advisory Health IT Policy Committee stressed the importance of meaningful consent and that the patient’s treating provider is responsible for educating patients regarding how information will be shared and with whom. The provider will also obtain and track patient consent. 

Research on patient electronic consent, however, is limited thus far. It is critical to get feedback from patients and understand what information they need when they make decisions about their personal health information as well as what information they consider relevant for patient choice when considering the electronic exchange of their health information, ONC said. 

The committee also said that ONC should offer resources to providers related to consent. ONC expects to provide more details next month and award a contract to explore patient consent for a total of two years.