Monday, February 2, 2009

New York Times Editorial on the E-Health Records Debate

Some good news to report on the ongoing debate over how best to protect patient privacy in the brave new world of medical record digitization.

This good news is the New York Times editorialized on the topic on Saturday...adding some much needed attention to this debate. As I mentioned last week, being that the digital transition of our medical records is a key component to both President Obama's health plan AND his economic stimulus package, this debate is an especially important one to have now...while the system is still being planned and constructed.

From the Editorial:

The idea is sound, but it also raises important questions about how to ensure the privacy of patients. Fortunately, the legislation would impose sensible privacy protections despite attempts by business lobbyists to weaken the safeguards.

With paper records the opportunities for breaches are limited to over-the-shoulder glimpses or the occasional lost or stolen files. But when records are kept and transferred electronically, the potential for abuse can become as vast as the Internet.


The potential for harm was spelled out by the American Civil Liberties Union in a recent letter to Congress. Employers who obtain medical records inappropriately might reject a job candidate who looks expensive to insure. Drug companies with access to pharmaceutical records might try to pressure patients to switch to their products. Data brokers might buy medical and pharmaceutical records and sell them to marketers. Unscrupulous employees with access to electronic records might snoop on the health of their colleagues or neighbors.


It should be possible through implementing regulations to fine-tune the privacy requirements so that they do not disrupt patient care. Congress must make every effort to ensure that patients’ privacy is protected.

Click here to read more.

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