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What is SMC Connected Care?

SMC Connected Care is the Health Information Exchange (HIE) for the electronic sharing of health-related information for patients and clients receiving services from the San Mateo County Health System. 

The ability to exchange health information electronically is key to improving healthcare quality, safety, and efficiency in the United States. SMC Connected Care manages the sharing of health-related information among electronic health record (EHR) systems within the Health System. This is done through a secure, encrypted data exchange using standards developed specifically for healthcare. The only people who can access and view a patient’s information will be the patient’s healthcare treatment team and designated staff.

Sharing health information electronically eliminates the need for faxing, copying and hand-carrying your health record from provider to provider.

Results

Nationally, electronic Health Information Exchanges have resulted in:

  • Faster and more effective emergency treatment
  • Greater patient satisfaction
  • Improved public health disease reporting
  • The reduction of medical errors by avoiding duplicate testing, negative drug interactions, and allergic reactions
Participating Divisions

SMCHS participating divisions include the San Mateo Medical Center (SMMC), Public Health, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS), Aging and Adult Services, Family Health Services, and the Mobile Clinic.

What is an electronic health record (EHR)?

Your electronic health record is a list of the care you have received and your relevant patient information. In the past, health records were kept in paper files. Now many providers have converted their paper files into electronic files for improved security, timeliness, and efficiency. An EHR provides a digital version of the paper file you might have seen at the doctor’s office. Your EHR might include health information such as the dates of your past visits, your diagnoses, medications, immunizations, lab test results, and treatments you’ve had.

How does SMC Connected Care benefit me?

There are multiple ways in which SMC Connected Care will benefit you and leave you with the highest confidence and satisfaction in your healthcare. These benefits include saving you time, improving your overall care and experience, potentially reducing costs, and enhancing your privacy through the highest security standards.

Saves Time

With SMC Connected Care, physicians and other qualified health professionals will have quick access to your health information compiled from multiple participating health organizations. When health providers are not connected electronically to the health information they need, they are forced to spend time searching and requesting paper documents by calling and faxing for information—this can mean less time spent with the patient and potential treatment delays. With SMC Connected Care, providers will no longer have to “chase” information. They will already have the important health information they need to make informed decisions about your treatment plan.

Improves Care

With consistent health information delivery provided by SMC Connected Care, physicians and other providers will get results and reports in one compiled format, which makes your health information more complete. As a result, your care is improved through reduced errors and improved treatment recommendations. It also means you don’t have to remember the details of every hospital visit or medication you’ve been prescribed when you see a new doctor. All of this information will be stored in SMC Connected Care.

Cost Reduction

With more streamlined and comprehensive information, quality of care improves and duplicate tests and procedures are reduced. In this way, SMC Connected Care saves you time and can reduce your out-of-pocket expenses for unnecessary medications, radiology tests, lab tests and hospitalizations.

Enhanced Privacy

Your privacy is very important to the San Mateo County Health System. Our use of electronic health information requires enhanced security protections beyond what is required for paper records. Therefore, your health information and privacy are more secure than ever.

How will SMC Connected Care protect my private information?

SMC Connected Care utilizes the highest technology security standards available in the industry today to protect your health information.

Federal and state laws protect your privacy by determining who can access your data. These laws mean that your health information will never be provided to anyone other than your health care team or authorized clinicians.

Because your health information is transferred electronically, SMC Connected Care will track where your health information has been sent to ensure that only your healthcare team providers are viewing your information. Every time a clinician accesses your personal health information, an audit trail is recorded. The Health System cares about your privacy, and this type of accountability provides an additional layer of security for your health information.

Your health information is encrypted into a type of technical language that can only be translated, or decrypted, by someone who has the authority to do so. Therefore, only your healthcare team providers will be able to read your health information.

Will my immigration status be shared via SMC Connected Care?

No. Immigration status is not recorded in a health record and will not be shared via SMC Connected Care. SMC Connected Care will only share medical and treatment information. Additional information such as your home or mailing address will not be shared with anyone without your explicit permission by signing a release of information. Further, immigration status is never a condition of treatment.

Do I have to share my health care information?

You are not required to share your healthcare information. You may refuse to allow your information to be shared in SMC Connected Care at any time. Your choice to refuse to share your information via SMC Connected Care will not affect your access to care with the San Mateo County Health System in any way.

What are my SMC Connected Care participation options?

Participation in SMC Connected Care is voluntary. As a patient/client of San Mateo County Health System, we encourage you to make important decisions about your health information according to your preference. Below you will find your options for participation in SMC Connected Care:

Participate

You do not need to do anything to be an SMC Connected Care Participant. When you have an appointment with your care provider, your information will be securely transmitted to SMC Connected Care and will only be visible to providers of your treatment.

Opt Out/Withdraw

When you opt-out/withdraw, none of your health information will be included in SMC Connected Care HIE. In an emergency, a provider will not be able to access any part of your medical record via SMC Connected Care. If you opt-out/withdraw and change your mind, you will have the option to opt-in/participate at a later date. All fields must be completed in the Opt Out/Withdraw form in order to process your request. It will take up to three business days to process your request upon receipt.

How do I Opt Out/Withdraw of SMC Connected Care and where do I return the form?

There are four options available to you should you choose to Opt Out/Withdraw of SMC Connect. Please note: No action is required if you choose to Participate in SMC Connect.

Option 1: Complete Form Online

You can Opt Out/Withdraw from SMC Connected Care by completing the Opt Out Form. After completing the form, hit “Save”. 

Option 2: Fax Completed Form

You can Opt Out/Withdraw from SMC Connected Care by clicking on the Opt Out Form, then print. When the form has printed, please complete the form fully. Fax the completed form to:

(650) 573-3626
Attn: SMC Connected Care

Option 3: Send Completed Form through US Mail

You can Opt Out/Withdraw from SMC Connected Care by clicking on the Opt Out Form, then print. When the form has printed, please complete the form fully. Use US Mail to return the form to the following mailing address:

Health IT – SMC Connected Care
HLT 362
225 37th Ave.
San Mateo, CA 94403

Option 4: Return to San Mateo County Clinic

You can Opt Out/Withdraw from SMC Connected Care by clicking on the Opt Out Form, then print. When the form has printed, please complete the form fully. Bring the completed form to any San Mateo County Clinic.

You can also request a blank form to complete at any San Mateo County Clinic.

What are the risks if I Opt Out/Withdraw

If you choose to opt out of SMC Connected Care, your healthcare team may not have all of the information to provide you the safest and most effective health care.

How is my health information used in SMC Connected Care

Health information in SMC Connected Care is shared for treatment purposes only.

Just like your health information in the paper record, your health information in SMC Connected Care is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule.

Under this rule, your health information can only be shared with:

  • Other doctors and hospitals for treatment purposes
  • Insurers for billing purposes
  • State and Federal health reporting agencies (such as immunizations and cancer registries), as required by law

When a healthcare provider is seeing you for treatment, he or she can receive information about your health history from other healthcare providers who have treated you in the past. 

If you receive care in the emergency department or are admitted to or discharged from a hospital, SMC Connected Care can notify your doctors about that event. In the event of an emergency, health care providers can also use SMC Connected Care to communicate among themselves to design the best plan for your ongoing care.

Can my information be used for other purposes without my consent?

It’s important to understand that your health information can’t be given to your employer, used for sales or advertising, or used for any other purpose without your signed permission.

San Mateo County Health Services is committed to safeguarding the privacy of our patients and clients. Only healthcare providers with an authorized medical treatment reason, a release of information signed by you, or other legitimate business needs as defined in Federal and State regulations can see your information.

What will it cost me?

Participating in SMC Connected Care is free.  What’s more, by improving quality of care and reducing duplication of tests and procedures, SMC Connected Care actually helps lower the cost of care for everyone in the community.

What type of health information is exchanged and who can see it?

 The information shared with your healthcare providers may include:

  • Demographic information, such as Name, Birthdate, Sex, and Primary Language
  • Emergency Contact
  • Primary Care Provider
  • Advanced Directive
  • Medication List
  • Known Allergies
  • Health Care Visit History (e.g., clinics, emergency rooms, hospitals). This may include visit dates, diagnosis, and health care provider information
  • Laboratory Test Results
  • Health Care Team Providers

How will you protect my sensitive information like HIV status and substance use treatment information?

Sensitive health information will continue to be protected as it is now. Only authorized healthcare providers are able to view sensitive healthcare information.  SMC Connected Care has an added level of protection for this information where clinicians must provide a reason they need to review this information. All views of sensitive health information are audited and brought to the attention of Quality Management staff for review of appropriateness.

In the event of treatment for medical emergencies, Federal and State regulations do NOT require a separate patient/consumer signed release of information. That means that clinicians in a medical emergency are authorized to review all clinical information that they need to provide appropriate care. If they access health information via SMC Connected Care, they must still provide a reason for viewing sensitive health information. Their “need to know” is authorized based on their providing treatment in an emergency.

Can I request a copy of my information in SMC Connected Care?

Not yet. SMC Connected Care is San Mateo County Health System’s first step toward consolidating medical information which gives essential information to providers. The ability for patients to request a copy of their information via SMC Connected Care has not yet been developed, but will likely be an option in the future.  

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