Proposed VA rule would allow HIEs to easily gain veteran consent for health data exchange

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A new rule proposed by the Department of Veterans Affairs tries to streamline health data exchange for veterans by connecting the VA EHR to health information exchanges.

The legislation would allow the VA to alter its consent regulations so partnering HIEs could easily obtain veterans' permission to share their EHRs. Currently, only hardcopy consent forms are acceptable forms of authorization for health data exchange.

 "This proposed rule would be a reinterpretation of an existing, long-standing regulation and is necessary to facilitate modern requirements for the sharing of patient records with community health care providers, health plans, governmental agencies, and other entities participating in electronic HIEs," the proposed rule states.

According to the bill, roughly three out of four veterans who seek care with the VA's healthcare system also visit non-VA facilities. Those community providers are frequently denied access to veterans' EHRs because they lack the written consent forms. When they cannot access the EHR, delays in care or ill-informed treatments ensue.

"The primary obstacle is that veterans will often seek care in the community prior to having the opportunity to provide the consent form to VA and are then left without any means of getting the consent into VA's physical possession promptly once they are at the community health care facility," according to the rule.

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