Politico: Providers must act like 'sherpas' in guiding patients through health data sharing

As lawmakers, citizens and other stakeholders seek increased patient accessibility to their own health data, many healthcare providers are pushing back, worried that too much accessibility could result in major violations of patient privacy.

Measures to increase the free flow of health data are swiftly moving forward, however, meaning that providers' efforts would be better spent teaching patients how best to protect their data, rather than making futile attempts to fight those measures, Politico reports.

There are no laws in place that put the onus on providers to vet apps and other digital health services for patients, nor are they responsible should a third party use patient information irresponsibly, but they may still feel an ethical responsibility to guide patients through the confusing world of HIPAA and other privacy protections.

University of Texas Health Austin, for example, performed "extensive deep compliance and privacy assessments" of the Apple HealthKit before introducing it to patients. "It's incumbent on all healthcare delivery organizations to be good 'sherpas,'" said Aaron Miri, UT Health's CIO.

Darren Dworkin, CIO of Los Angeles' Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, agreed that health systems can try to help patients understand the risks of sharing their medical data. Still, he added, "At the end of the day, we're entering a brave new world in which patients will choose what they want to do with their information and how they want to share it."

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