Electronically Exchanging Sensitive Health Information

Data Segmentation for Privacy Initiative Demonstration

An S&I Initiative focuses on an a single issue with goals and outcomes that will improve healthcare delivery through the development of content, technical specifications and reusable tools and services. On October 5, 2011 the ONC launched the Data Segmentation for Privacy Initiative (DS4P) which took on the issue to develop metadata tags to be used for exchanging data across organizational structures and maintaining the privacy and security of the information being exchanged. The goal was to produce a pilot project allowing providers to share only portions of an electronic medical record to another provider. This technology could give patients options of what and who to share their personal health information electronically.

This week HHS and the VA announced a demonstration of the exchange of sensitive health information between providers through the SAMHSA-VA-Pilot. Along with securely exchanging health information it also showed how sensitive health information like mental health records can be tagged so that receiving providers know they must obtain the patient’s authorization to further disclose the information. ONC Chief Privacy Officer Joy Pritts stated that the “project helps demonstrate that with proper standards in place existing privacy laws and policies can be implemented appropriately in an electronic environment.”

Using standards identified in the DS4P Initiative, HHS’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the VA safely and securely transmitted a mock patient’s substance abuse treatment records tagged with privacy metadata from one EHR to a different EHR system after electronically verifying that the mock patient had consented to the transmission.

View the presentation from the Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework in cooperation with Health Level Seven (HL7): Data Segmentation for Privacy Pilot. The presentation details the Privacy Pilot for sending and receiving health information protected by metadata classification tags indicating confidentiality, sensitivity, and handling instructions.