An advisory body to the Department of Health and Human Services has made a series of recommendations on restricting the sharing of sensitive information in electronic health records.

In a report to HHS, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics offers initial definitions of categories of sensitive information. These include genetic, mental health, substance abuse, and sexuality or reproductive health information, as well as treatments paid for out-of-pocket and the rights of adolescent minors under some state laws to segregate certain information.

The recommendations to HHS include:

* Assess current capabilities of EHRs and health information exchanges to identify and manage sensitive information;

* Compile and publish best practices and existing standards, if any, for identifying and managing categories of particularly sensitive information;

* Invest in research to enhance EHR and HIE capabilities to identify and manage sensitive information, including development of standards if appropriate;

* Invest in pilots and demonstration programs to assess enhanced EHR and HIE capabilities; and

* Include in research and tests the categories identified in federal and state laws that require special handling, and additional categories that NCVHS has identified.

Text of the 14-page letter, "Recommendations Regarding Sensitive Health Information," is available at

--Joseph Goedert


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