HHS Launches Meaningful Consent Site

HHS launches meaningful consent

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services  (HHS) announces the launch of site, Meaningful Consent, aimed at aiding providers in their efforts to engage patients in determining the best way to share their electronic information.

The site provides “strategies and tools” to providers, including background information and lessons learned by other providers. It is based on 2011 recommendations made by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s HIT Policy Committee.

According to HHS, the online resource helps healthcare providers effectively engage patients in choosing how they want their electronic patient health information shared.

Meaningful Consent supposedly addresses the laws, policies and issues related to the electronic exchange of health information, also known as health information exchange, or HIE.  The site includes strategies and tools that can be used to engage and educate patients, if they are interested in learning more, of course.


This information on the site is designed for providers, certain health information organizations and other implementers of health information technology.

The new Meaningful Consent site includes background, lessons learned, videos and customizable tools from the eConsent pilot project that was completed by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in March of 2013.

The pilot project tested the use of tablet computers to inform patients about options available to them when they consider whether to electronically share their health information through HIE.

HHS states: “More and more patients and providers are using technology to manage healthcare and share health information, including electronic health records (EHRs) and HIE services.

“As patients become more engaged in their healthcare, it’s vitally important that they understand more about various aspects of their choices when it relates to sharing their health in the electronic health information exchange environment” said Joy Pritts, ONC’s chief privacy officer.

The Meaningful Consent site builds upon the 2011 recommendations from ONC’s Health Information Technology Policy Committee (HITPC), which called on ONC to inform, collect, and evaluate the information patients need to make an informed choice about electronic exchange of their health information.

In recognition that patients are increasingly engaged in their healthcare, HHS encourages communication and education of patients in many areas, including electronically receiving and sharing their health information. Adequately informing patients of these new models for exchange and giving patients the choice whether to participate is one means of ensuring that patients trust these technologies.

So, what is “Meaningful Consent”?

According to HHS, the effort should not be a “check-the-box” exercise.  Meaningful consent occurs when the patient makes an informed decision and the choice is properly recorded and maintained. Specifically, the meaningful consent decision has six aspects. The decision should be:

In my experience, these six points seem a little lofty, if not ideal. How many times do the providers we see actually take the time to help educate us on the points. Perhaps Meaningful Consent will make a difference, but probably not as no one with a cursory interest in healthcare will likely find nor read this site.

At least now I know that my consent rights are revocable at any given time, which is a good thing to know.

For more information about Meaningful Consent, visit www.HealthIT.gov/meaningfulconsent

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