Gaining instant access to each other's data enables providers from both organizations to reconcile medications. “That's huge for our providers,” said Donna Fox, administrative manager of UM's complex care program. Seeing Community's patient-care plans enables providers from both organizations to “always speak to the patient in the same framework, so the patient is not hearing two different things.”
Michael Harding, Community's chief information officer, said the expanded patient-information sharing may reduce costs by eliminating duplication of costly metabolic tests. “We're anticipating we're saving 50 metabolic panels a week,” he said.
UM, Community and PCE Systems are among a handful of providers and IT vendors hard at work developing patient-directed privacy controls to be placed on EHRs to comply with strict federal privacy laws governing behavioral and addiction treatment. The federally backed effort to promote development and use of the new technology is called data segmentation for privacy, or DS4P.
Privacy rules protecting patient information on behavioral health and addiction treatment are deemed critical in encouraging Americans with mental-health, drug or alcohol problems to seek treatment without having to worry about their records being shared inappropriately and their suffering a stigma that could affect them socially or financially.
“If we compromise addicted people's records with open access through (EHR) interoperability, it will destroy people's confidence” that their privacy will be respected if they seek treatment, said John Liepold, executive vice president of Valley Hope Association, a behavioral-health provider in Norton, Kan.
The legal issues arise largely from 42 CFR Part 2, a federal rule issued in the 1970s that requires patients' consent for a disclosure of addiction treatment records to another provider; those other providers similarly must get the patients' consent to send the records to other providers. “Law enforcement would go to these specialty treatment centers and try to obtain records and information about these patients and arrest them,” said Kate Tipping, a public health adviser at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA. “That's why 42 CFR came along.”