Proposed VA Rule Change Allows Release of Patient Records to HIEs Without Written Consent

The Veterans Administration (VA) has proposed changing a VA-specific patient privacy rule to allow the release of patient records to eligible community providers and health information exchanges (HIEs) without a hard copy of a patient’s written authorization. The proposed rule, which only applies to the VA, puts the onus of proving that a patient’s written consent has been obtained on HIE providers.

“This proposed rule would be a reinterpretation of an existing, longstanding regulation and is necessary to facilitate modern requirements for the sharing of patient records with community healthcare providers, health plans, governmental agencies and other entities participating in electronic HIEs,” the rule states.

Under previous regulations, providers sought out by veterans at non-VA facilities were frequently forced to delay care or deliver treatment without a full medical history. An estimated 75 percent of veterans seek treatment at providers that are not affiliated with the VA, according to a FierceHealthcare article. According to the article, veterans are generally happy to provide consent and frequently see non-VA providers before they are seen by a VA physician.

Veterans were encouraged to seek care beyond the VA in the aftermath of a federal investigation that found that VA facilities had massive waiting lists and backlogs. At a Phoenix VA hospital, the average wait time for an appointment with a primary care physician was 115 days.

“This revision would ensure that more community health care providers and other HIE community partners can deliver informed medical care to patients by having access to the patient’s VA medical records at the point of care,” the proposed rule states.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

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