Privacy laws complicate exchange data-sharing: Pritts

Rich Daly reports:

Strong state privacy laws continue to complicate health information exchanges’ efforts to ease health-data sharing, a senior federal health technology official said Monday. And a key to overcoming such obstacles may be greater use of meta tags.

Joy Pritts, chief privacy officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, told a Washington health policy gathering that some health information exchanges are not accepting electronic health records containing mental health or substance-abuse data. Their refusal stems from concerns that certain state medical privacy laws that are more strict than federal law and require individual patient agreement before their data is shared preclude exchanges’ use of the information.

The proposed solution – meta-tagging sensitive elements and requiring patient permission to open the protected elements – may not be an adequate solution, however. In the last few years, we have seen all too many hacks of data that custodians may have believed were secure. As long as the sensitive data are embedded, they will be at some level of risk of acquisition and viewing by unauthorized individuals.

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