Health IT

ONC offers health data playbook for patients

Shutterstock image: medical professional interacting with a futuristic, digital interface.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has released a series of educational tools designed to help people understand what rights they have to access their medical data and how to handle it securely. The tools include educational videos and a Patient Engagement Playbook.

"What we're trying to do at ONC is to bring the technology that everyone has in the rest of their lives into health care," ONC Chief Privacy Officer Lucia Savage said. "We know when people have access to their records electronically, they do engage with that process."

The short videos, developed in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights, focus on Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations that govern accessing and sharing data. They also seek to clarify any misconceptions about acceptable billing practices and patients' rights to their own medical information.

"We're a small agency; we don't have an advertising budget," Savage said. "The videos we released today highlight the basics for individuals to get access to their electronic health information and direct it where they wish, including to third-party applications."

Deven McGraw. deputy director of health information privacy at the Office for Civil Rights, added, "The right under HIPAA to access your data has never been limited to certain purposes, only to treatment of the patient or for care coordination."

The Patient Engagement Playbook is a user-friendly guide to handling health IT securely that includes best practices and case studies. It "provides clinicians with the resources they need to get the most out of their health IT and help patients put their electronic information to work to better manage their health," ONC chief medical officer Tom Mason said.

Through the recent push for increased public engagement and the new tools, ONC officials hope to incite a culture change by making medical data more readily available to patients without compromising privacy regulations.

"Cultural change that really makes a difference is not going to be because government forces it down people’s throats, but it's going to happen because people want it," McGraw said. "We just need to lay down the foundation then get the heck out of the way."

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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