BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Starting March 1, Vermonters will be automatically enrolled in the Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE), allowing doctors across the state to access their medical records when needed.
"In the past, individuals would have had to opt-in and only about 50% of Vermonters had gone to a health care provider had been asked," said Jenney Samuelson, the deputy commissioner for the Department of Vermont Health Access. "The majority of Vermonters would want their health information available."
According to Vermont Information Technology Leaders (VITL), which manages VHIE, most Vermonters have health information in the exchange and more than 2,000 health care professionals are enrolled in the provider portal to view patient health information.
"[Some patients] assume that you have access to a lot of their records," said Dr. Julie Lin, a Vermont dermatologist who uses VHIE. "And when we tell them, 'No, I have nothing, I know nothing about you, you need to tell me all over again,' they're actually frustrated sometimes."
Dr. Lin says having patients be automatically enrolled will be beneficial for the patient and provider.
"It's hard to make a medical decision out of the vacuum," says Dr. Lin. "So if you don't have all the patient's past medical history, their medications, their allergies, active medical issues you're going through, you might not make the appropriate decision."
Patients can opt-out of the exchange. They can either go to vthealthinfo.com and fill out a form or mail it. They can also call the Vermont Health Information Exchange Hotline at 1-888-980-1243. If you would like your information shared between your doctors, you don't have to do anything.
According to the Department of Vermont Health Access, there are legal relationships (guided by HIPAA Privacy and Security regulations) between health care organizations and Health Information Exchanges across the United States. VITL is legislatively designated to operate the Health Information Exchange in Vermont. The 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, “HITECH”, amends the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to clarify that Health Information Exchange Organizations shall be Business Associates of the health care providers from whom they receive protected health information (PHI) to transmit to other health care providers for treatment, payment or health care operation purposes.
In making this amendment, the HITECH Act also established that all Business Associates, including Health Information Exchange Organizations, must comply with the HIPAA Privacy and Security regulations and shall be directly subject to the application of civil and criminal penalties for violations of the regulations.
"VITL also takes privacy and security seriously," says Samuelson. "To ensure security of the data going into the VHIE they use several strategies which include meeting all federal privacy policies including HIPAA and meeting national security standards, continuously auditing who is accessing information, encrypting all health data that is coming into and going out of the HIE.
The Health Care Advocate, a resource that is independent of the Health Information Exchange, is also available to answer questions through their helpline at 1-800-917-7787.