Gov. Kevin Stitt reversed an agency rule about implementing a statewide health information exchange program that sparked concerns about patient privacy.
The rule would have implemented new definitions and exemption criteria for electronic health records shared between a patient’s caregivers.
According to the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma’s HIE’s goal is to improve patient outcomes by enabling greater data sharing. By having access to a patient’s medical records, doctors have the ability to better manage and coordinate care by being able to view patient medication lists, be notified of hospital admissions, discharges, or transfers, improving care coordination, and avoiding testing redundant.
During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers declined to approve or disapprove the rules, leaving the final decision to the governor.
“Governor Stitt believes these rules would place too much of a burden on small healthcare providers in our state. He is also concerned about the security of patient data stored in a centralized database controlled by a private company,” said Abegail Cave , Stitt’s communications manager director. “Furthermore, he does not believe that the opt-out provisions in the mandate are broad enough and believes they place an undue burden on patients. His concerns have not been allayed by the rules presented.”
Moreover:Mental health advocates are protesting proposed legislation to share patient data
What happens next for health information in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which drafted the rule, is now working on new emergency rules that will further ease exemption eligibility. In a presentation this week, the authority’s board members were told the new rule would lead to significantly lower attendance statewide.
The Oklahoma Private Sector HIE is a Tulsa-based nonprofit called the MyHealth Access Network. State Representative Marcus McEntire, chair of the House Budget Health Subcommittee, wrote in an op-ed that by 2020, most of Oklahoma’s large health care providers had already signed up to be part of their network.
For providers who don’t already have a compatible electronic record system in place to share a patient’s health information with other physicians and health care providers, the cost of implementing the HIE could have exceeded $5,000.
Because of the cost, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s proposed rule would have allowed them to apply for an exemption. The agency outlined several other reasons a vendor might receive an exemption related to the type, size, and technological limitations of their practice.
Patients can request that their records not be shared on the exchange.
Oklahoma’s full implementation of the HIE would extend its use to mental health professionals, who are among those most perturbed by the information-sharing database. Some complained that the state’s implementation of an HIE network required them to keep patient information in the online database even if the patient had chosen not to share their data with other providers.
“Mental health information is incredibly private in nature and people seek assistance from private cash-only providers to keep that information out of their general medical record. It is a privilege to be able to pay cash for services, but it is still a option that may soon disappear,” Sabrina DeQuasie, a licensed professional advisor-supervisor, wrote in another op-ed published this spring. “The bottom line is this: mental health records do not belong in the HIE system at all and should be excluded, except perhaps as an opt-in rather than an opt-out. Private providers should not be subject to this at all mandate. And the Oklahoma Health Care Authority should not be given carte blanche to determine which providers they have authority over.”
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