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First HIT privacy committee meeting

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The HITE-CT privacy committee held its first meeting last week. While mainly organizational, the consensus of the group was that developing a patient consent model – opt-in vs. opt-out – was foundational to our work. Most other policies flow from that decision. Efforts to limit discussion to just tracking federal privacy issues were considered but the membership agreed that it was critical to develop a consent model that respects consumer rights and provider time constraints. Concerns were raised about providers’ ability and time to accurately flag legally protected sensitive health information as required in an opt-out system, especially in small practices, and to accept liability for that process. Concerns were raised about the quality of information and consent management across practices – the pool of information is only as strong the weakest contributor. The need for extensive patient education was raised, particularly in light of HITE-CT’s plans to devote only $35,000 of the total $7 million budget to patient education. Concerns were raised about plans to upload everyone’s private information to the system, with or without permission, and plans to allow providers to over-ride even an affirmative opt-out decision by a patient to access that information against the patient’s wishes. Concerns were raised about HITE-CT’s proposed narrow definitions of security breaches, lax reporting parameters and leaving the decision about what is a breach to the providers who would have to pay the penalty. Advocates noted that the committee’s first meeting is being held seven months after the bill passed, despite numerous requests to DPH over those months. This raises concerns that consideration of the patient consent model could be further delayed until after the legislative session and that the delay could be used by opponents of consumer rights to kill any legislative remedies to protect patients. The committee decided to research other states’ policies, particularly our surrounding states and those that have recently switched from opt-out to opt-in policies, and other policies in CT. The next meeting of the committee will be Jan. 25th at 3:30 at the LOB.

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