Interoperability drives VA to propose patient record-sharing without hardcopy consent

The proposed revision from VA Secretary Shulkin would allow the VA to share data to improve veteran care experience at community and HIE providers.
By Jessica Davis
04:05 PM
Veterans Affairs EHR

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD, proposed a revision to federal regulation on the confidentiality of medical records to fuel better data sharing with private sector providers.

The rule proposes changing VA privacy regulations by letting agency providers release patient medical records to eligible community providers, even if a physical copy of the patient’s written consent is not present.

The change would instead put the burden of attesting patient consent on health information exchange providers.

[Also: Shulkin: VA-Cerner EHR deal paused over interoperability concerns]

“This proposed rule would be a reinterpretation of an existing, longstanding regulation and is necessary to facilitate modern requirements for the sharing of patient records with community healthcare providers, health plans, governmental agencies and other entities participating in electronic HIEs,” according to the rule proposal.

The hope is the change would improve veteran care at community healthcare and HIE providers by opening up access to patient data at the point of care, the rule summary explained.

The proposal won’t infringe on a veteran’s privacy rights, as “such disclosure would still require a legally sufficient written consent.” The only proposed change is to expand the ability of outside providers to obtain consent to share records.

Further, the written attestation wouldn’t require a physical document and signature. An electronic attestation would suffice.The agency feels the majority of attestations would be done electronically through approved messaging with HIE providers.

The community provider would be able to either make the consent form available to the VA within 10 days of attestation or maintain the patient’s written consent form with a memorandum of understanding, drafted and signed by the VA and community partner.

If approved, the change will continue Shulkin’s quest for open interoperability within the VA and outside private sector partners. Currently, the agency put its planned EHR contract with Cerner on hold over interoperability concerns.

The proposal is currently in a comment period, which will close on March 20.

Twitter: @JessieFDavis
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