Major legal issues for health IT

A new report, “Assessing Legal Implications of Using Health Data to Improve Health Care Quality and Eliminate Health Care Disparities,” lays out a laundry list of legal questions associated with information exchanges and how aggregated clinical data is used. Here is a sampling of the questions George Washington University researchers raised:

* Under what circumstances is it lawful to collect, store, use and disclose information about the racial and ethnic characteristics of health plan members and health care patients?

* Who owns health information, the consumer, provider, clinic or hospital? When must the owner of the health information provide access to others?

* When is it proper to disclose patient information to third parties, particularly in the case of sensitive information such as psychiatric treatment notes?

* Under what circumstances can or should the government compel the collection and reporting of personal health information?

* Under what circumstances should health insurers and payers have the power to compel the collection and disclosure of health information as a condition of payment or performance measurement?

* Should liability exist when payers and providers fail to use information to improve quality or reduce disparities, and under what circumstances should private litigants have legal access to data?

* Should government have access to stored health information for law enforcement purposes, ranging from criminal prosecution under state and federal law to enforcement of civil rights laws barring discrimination?

* Under what circumstances can health information be used for biomedical, behavioral and health services research, and what conflicts of interest notices must health care systems provide when personal information is to be used in research?

The project also identified a ninth category of legal questions that arises as a result of the health information industry itself: How should the law change to both encourage and accommodate the growth and rapid diffusion of new market technology, and what conditions should be placed on this growth and diffusion?

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