ONC Hold NPP Design Contest

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) is holding a contest to help make digital versions of Notices of Privacy Practices (NPPs) more accessible and easily understood for consumers.

The HITECH-HIPAA Omnibus Final Rule, which went into effect in September 2013, made a number of changes allowing consumers more access to their health information in electronic formats. These changes necessitate, then, a digital NPP to inform consumers of the changes. In a blog post, ONC Chief Privacy Officer Joy Pritts acknowledged the substantive differences between consuming content digitally versus on paper, particularly when it comes to conveying complicated regulatory concepts.

Therefore, ONC is challenging designers, patient privacy experts, and web developers to take part in its Digital Privacy Notice Challenge, with the stated goal of creating “online notice of privacy practices that is compelling, readable, and understandable by patients and easily integrated into Web sites,” according to Pritts’ post. Participants should use model notices of privacy practices—which were created in collaboration between ONC and the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR)—as a baseline.

According to Pritts, winning entries must include accurate use of content from paper NPPs, use of best practices in presenting online content for public consumption, visual appeal, and a capacity for the entity to customize content and link to other relevant content.

Participants have until April 7 to submit their prototypes and be considered for a $15,000 award. Click here for more details on the contest.

The contest seeks to overcome NPPs’ reputation for being extremely un-user friendly. Although HIPAA requires that notices be written in plain language, a consultant working for HHS analyzed six privacy notices and 31 online privacy notices and found that they were written, on average, at 2nd-4th year college reading levels, according to a document Pritts cited.

For comparison, the average newspaper story is written at about an eighth grade reading level.


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