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To promote the use of information technology for the electronic exchange of personal health information among providers and other health care entities, Congress passed the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. It provides incentives intended to promote the widespread adoption of technology that supports the electronic sharing of data among hospitals, physicians, and other health care entities. Pursuant to a requirement in the HITECH Act, GAO is reporting on practices implemented by health information exchange organizations, providers, and other health care entities that disclose electronic personal health information. GAO's specific objectives were to describe (1) the practices implemented for disclosing personal health information for purposes of treatment, including the use of electronic means for obtaining consent, as reported by selected health information exchange organizations, their participating providers, and other entities; and (2) the effects of the electronic sharing of health information on the quality of care for patients as reported by these organizations. To address both objectives, GAO conducted case studies of 4 of more than 60 operational health information exchanges and a selection of each of the exchanges' participating providers.

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