Recently, big news was heard from the first-ever HHS Consumer Health IT Summit. This event brought consumers, providers, the public and private sectors together for the purpose of figuring out how to further empower patients when it comes to their electronic health record (EHR).

During this event, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius made an announcement proposing new guidelines that would expand access to a patient’s health record. Specifically, the new proposed rules mandate that patients have the right to gain access to test results and reports directly from labs in a HIPPA compliant manner. Upon request, hospitals and physician practices would have to grant access directly to patients or legal representatives. While somewhat technical in nature, these statements suggest that the trend toward increasing use of PHR’s, especially those integrated with standard EHR’s, is being taken quite seriously at the highest levels.

“When it comes to health care, information is power. When patients have their lab results, they are more likely to ask the right questions, make better decisions and receive better care,” said Secretary Sebelius.“This Summit offers a unique opportunity for the public and private sectors alike to share strategies to improve consumer access to their health information, while safeguarding the privacy and security of their data.”

Furthermore, the proposed rule would amend the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA), which was originally passed to regulate all laboratory testing (except research) that is performed on humans in the USA.  Currently, the CLIA covers approximately 225,000 laboratory entities. The objective of the CLIA is to ensure quality laboratory testing. Again, the new regulations specify that, upon a patient’s request, the laboratory may provide access to completed test reports that can be identified as belonging to that patient.

Another big announcement was made at the HHS Summit by Secretary Sebelius, who additionally authorized the creation of a Personal Health Record (PHR) Model Privacy Notice.

“It creates an easy-to-read, standardized template allowing consumers to compare and make informed decisions based on their privacy and security policies and data practices about PHR products. The new template is similar to the Nutrition Facts Labels in that it presents certain complex information in a simple way to improve transparency and consumer understanding about data practices. By making this Model Privacy Notice available, PHR companies can help build greater trust in PHRs.”

In fact, The PHR Model Privacy Notice (online form) is already available for PHR companies to begin using. Some of the questions asked are “Do we stop releasing your Personal Data if you close or transfer your PHR” and “Do we keep PHR Data activity logs for your review?”  PHR companies can even generate a company specific PHR Model Privacy Notice by going to the website.