California issues data sharing guidance for mental health information

The California Office of Health Information Integrity released a non-binding guidance on the exchange of patient information related to mental health or substance use.

The State Health Information Guidance explains under what circumstances healthcare providers — including mental healthcare providers, substance use disorder providers and emergency service providers — can exchange mental health and substance use disorder records with one another to coordinating patient care.

The guidance is meant to alleviate confusion many providers have around existing privacy laws, which may hinder them from sharing patient information, the department said.

"This guidance is a huge step towards removing regulatory uncertainty that has prevented organizations from sharing these records," said Robert Cothren, PhD, executive director of the California Association of Health Information Exchanges. "Sharing mental health and substance use disorder information is a critical component of the complete picture of an individual's health."

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