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Electronic patient release of information forms include patient signatures that authorize treating health entities to release protected health information (PHI) to other health entities. In the digital age, electronic signatures are increasingly required. Electronic patient release of information forms are not all-out information release consents but rather specific consents providing patient authorization to divulge their electronic health records (EHR) to designated agencies on an as-needed basis. These forms also designate what information can be released.
Patients must specifically consent to release sensitive health data like whether they have HIV/AIDS or mental health or substance abuse problems. All other data is considered general medical data that does not require specific check boxes. For EHRs, release of information forms must be signed in order for protected health information to be shared between hospitals and other health agencies, which is a major goal of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Both acts pertain to the laws set forth to turn paper health records to EHRs by 2015.
IT professionals may be largely unaware when they are assisting health care providers and facilities with their EHR conversions that breaches of personal health information can result in large fines; therefore, it is mandated that all affected patients be contacted should data breaches occur. Some feel that inclusion of this within the electronic patient release of information form would be a wise move because it also pertains to patient rights and patient EHR confidentiality. To take it a step further, programmers should consider including automated data breach patient notifications with system flags.