OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Lawmakers and healthcare leaders say they are hoping to alleviate some concerns associated with a proposed measure that is making its way through the Oklahoma Capitol.

The Oklahoma HealthCare Authority and state legislators held a press conference one day before the final vote of a new bill, Senate Bill 1369, also known as the Health Information Act.

If passed, the measure would require all healthcare providers to enter patient records into an online database.

State lawmakers spoke out on Tuesday and said they want to knock down fears and rumors about the creation of a new statewide healthcare database. 

“We could have done a better job communicating this, but I’m astounded by some of the unprofessional conduct with some of our counseling association and some of our counselors. They’ve chosen to react emotionally and unethically,” said State Representative Marcus McEntire, District 50. 

Rep. McEntire’s comment came after hundreds of health care workers marched to the State Capitol on Saturday, arguing the new bill would be a violation of patients’ rights and privacy.

Our concerns are that they are not understanding the importance of consent, not just privacy, but a client’s right to choose and consent what is shared,” said Shay Espinosa, an LPC and spokesperson for Oklahoma Providers for Privacy 

On Tuesday, lawmakers said it is not mandatory and stressed it is up to the patient whether they want their information shared, adding that their data stays confidential. 

“The patient will be in control of their data. They’re in more control of their data and will also open up opportunities for them to see other doctors without having to lug around their medical records,” said McEntire.  

But an LPC and spokesperson for Oklahoma Providers for Privacy, Shay Espinosa, argued that it is not clear in the written rules under “Required Participation.” 

Rules under “Required Participation”

“If that is what they’re trying to debunk, that does not fall in line with what is on their website. They do give an option to opt out. But currently it states Oklahoma is an opt in state,” said Espinosa. 

The Oklahoma HealthCare Authority explained the process on Tuesday and said behavioral health patients will be required to provide written consent before the data is uploaded, and they have the option to opt out at any time.  

“If you do not have permission from a behavioral health in a written form or a patient says no to a non-behavioral health provider, the information does not go,” said Secretary Kevin Corbett, Secretary of Health and Mental Health/OHCA CEO. 

However, Espinosa said, “Everybody’s already opted in. They have to opt out for what is viewable, not shareable. So, it’s still shared, just not viewed.” 

The new rule was designed to help patients by creating a hub for crucial patient health background information.  

The commissioner of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance said in an emergency or crisis, these records could be critical to saving lives and it helps health professionals provide the highest quality care for patients. 

“Most people providing care at those levels would not be able to do their jobs without being able to access that information,” said Commissioner Carrie Slatton-Hodges, Commissioner of Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance.  

The OHCA Board of Directors will cast their final votes Wednesday, March 22nd at 2 p.m. KFOR will bring you the outcome then.