The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is seeking a vendor to develop and test methods of obtaining electronic patient consent for the use of personal data in health information exchanges (HIE).
The vendor who wins the contract will have to find a way to involve patients in the development, use and evaluation of the "e-consent" system. The winner also must develop a method to inform patients of their privacy choices in clinical settings. To pilot its approach, the vendor would partner with providers engaged in health information exchange.
In a related move, ONC expanded an existing contract with Lockheed Martin to develop an implementation model for the National Health Information Network. The additional requirement is to figure out how privacy consent options can become part of future meaningful use criteria for information exchange.
The HIPAA law governs the privacy of patient information in individual practices and hospitals, and requires that patients sign forms acknowledging that their data may be shared for treatment purposes. Still, many remain deeply concerned that their electronic information might fall into the wrong hands or be used for purposes other than treatment.
According to ONC's recently released strategic plan for 2011-2015, "The benefits of health IT can only be realized if individuals are fully involved in the development of health IT policy and confident that electronic health information is kept private and secure."