E-medicine: It has strong devotees, but privacy issues slow growth of valuable programs

Getahn Ward writes in The Tennessean:

With the click of a computer mouse, Nashville businessman Doug Smith can see his personal health records, including medical lab results, and communicate by e-mail with his doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

That access came in handy recently when Smith saw a mention in radiology test results that indicated spots on his thyroid could be cancerous. He alerted his doctor, who had e-mailed him the report, and the proper treatment was started immediately.

The Vanderbilt computer portal through which Smith can view his medical records online is a first step toward creating a Web-based storehouse of health and wellness data controlled by patients and their doctors.

“I could say it saved my life,” said Smith, chief executive officer of Blakemore at Home, a company that provides care for seniors who live at home.

Count Smith among the relatively few Americans who track personal health information electronically today. But those numbers could increase as more health insurers, providers and technology giants such as Google and Microsoft work to develop systems to store, manage and track more health records.

Skeptics, though, say the growth potential could be slowed by concerns over privacy and by technical concerns over how to convert paper files into an easily used digital format. Others say more incentives must be created to prod consumers into fully embracing the idea of entering everything from their immunization records to complete family medical histories into online databases.

Full story – The Tennessean

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