What is Patient Consent?

Patients talking with doctor about consent

Providing consent to share health information may improve your care.

When you go to see a health care provider, a record is kept of your visit. The record includes:

  • what medical problems were found.
  • what was done to make you better.

Most of us go to more than one place for health care. So we have medical records in many different places.

If the providers in each place could see your other records, they would know more about your health. If they know more, they may be able to give you better care. To help with this, Vermont has a system to electronically share medical records among providers. This system is called the Vermont Health Information Exchange (VHIE).

Your providers can use the exchange to see and use some of your medical records online. This may include lists of your medications and health problems. They can also look at lab test results and written reports. Many steps have been taken to keep your records safe and private. Only providers involved in your care are allowed to see your records.

Your providers cannot see and use your medical records from other providers on the exchange unless you say it is OK. You will be asked if it is OK for all of your providers to use the exchange to see your records from other providers. 

How can sharing your information improve your care?

When you go to a health care provider, it can be hard to remember the names of all your prescriptions. Or you may not know how much you take of each. If you say it is OK, your health care provider can use the exchange to find out more about your prescriptions. The information may come from many places, including pharmacies you have used.

More coordinated care: There may be many different health care providers involved in caring for you. They may give you better care if they can use the exchange to see what the others providers are doing.

Less unnecessary testing: You may have had a lab test done recently at a hospital or doctor’s office. When you go someplace else, they can use the exchange to see your prior lab test results. That may prevent the need to do the test again.

If you are pregnant: When you are having a baby, you may need to go to a new hospital. If you say it is OK, the hospital providers can use the exchange to view your records from other providers. They may be able to make safer decisions about how to take care of you and your baby.

What are your rights?
  1. You can decide if your health care providers can see and use your medical records from other providers on the exchange. You can change your mind at any time.
  2. You will receive care no matter what you decide.
  3. You can call VITL's Consent Hotline at 888-980-1243, or complete a Contact Us form to ask for a copy of your medical records that can be seen on the exchange.
  4. You can also request a list of the people who have used the exchange to view your medical records. Both are available free of charge.
  5. If you think someone has seen your records that should not have, you can call VITL to tell them. VITL has a policy to address this.
  6. In an emergency, a health care provider may use the exchange to find medical information about you from other providers. This may happen even if you have not given your consent. This would happen only if you are badly hurt or very sick, and unable to give your consent. When you are better, your health care provider must tell you that they looked at your medical records on the exchange. You can then decide if it is OK for them to keep seeing and using your information from other providers on the exchange. 
Is your information kept private?

Yes it is. Vermont’s health information exchange follows U.S. and Vermont privacy laws. Only people providing care to you may view your medical records on the exchange. This may include medical doctors, medical staff, pharmacists, and dentists. Mental health providers and home health care nurses may also have access to your medical records. Anyone who is not involved in your care is not allowed to view your medical records on the exchange.

How do you give consent, and what to do if you change your mind?

To give consent, all you need to do is sign a consent form. Ask your health care provider if they are a participating location. If so they will have copies of the form that you can fill out. Your provider will keep the form at their location, and your consent will be stored in the VITL system.

What if you change your mind and want to revoke consent? You can sign a revocation form, available at participating health care providers' offices.

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