A New Tool To Navigate California’s Privacy Laws and Connect More Patients to Food

Published on May 4, 2021 in Federal Advocacy

Last week, the California Office of Health Information Integrity (CalOHII) published the anticipated State Health Information Guidance Volume 2. Known as the SHIG 2.0, the guidance is a helpful tool for navigating the confusing patchwork of privacy rules that govern health information sharing in California. The guidance represents an important step forward in the fight to connect more Californians to the food and nutrition resources they need. Nourish California applauds CalOHII for the timely guidance and thanks our partners for their contributions.

We are proud to have helped usher in the guidance and are thrilled that the State was willing to say “yes” to our initial request. The new guidance will encourage greater care coordination while promoting a dialogue on how to improve appropriate sharing of health information.

What is Included in the Guidance?

The SHIG 2.0 represents the state of California’s authoritative (but non-binding) guidance on when, where, and why patient information can and should be exchanged between healthcare providers and providers of nutrition and food services (e.g., medically-tailored meal service providers, food banks, local WIC agencies, Older Americans Act nutrition programs, etc.). The SHIG clarifies federal and state privacy laws by translating them into non-legal and non-technical language for a general audience.

Why Was the Guidance Developed?

Health care providers are increasingly looking beyond medical interventions and investing in ways to support the social needs of their patients, including their food security. Addressing food insecurity often requires sharing patient information outside of a clinic or medical office. Providers can be reluctant to do so because of confusion over complex privacy laws. After hearing about a multitude of problems different groups were facing in the field, Nourish California approached CalOHII with a request to help standardize and clarify the federal and state laws that govern health information privacy. CalOHII, in collaboration with Nourish California and the California Primary Care Association, later launched the SHIG 2.0 project.

What’s Next?

The SHIG intends to support a continuous dialogue on how to improve appropriate sharing of health information. Beyond clarifying existing law, the guidance has helped identify places within California privacy law that may need to be updated. California has some of the most protective privacy laws in the nation, but the same privacy rules that were created to protect patients, may also be hindering them from accessing all available supports. Over the next year, Nourish California will be working with external stakeholders to do a deeper dive and will examine whether or not California law needs to be updated to remove policies that are standing between Californians and the food they need. We will also continue our advocacy to help connect Californians to all available supports before they reach the exam room. That includes a "no wrong door" approach to our state's public benefit programs.

How can I stay engaged and where can I go to learn more?

Questions? Please contact Melissa Cannon and Kameron Mims-Jones.