Government Grapples With EMR Security, Privacy

Mitch Wagner reports:

While electronic medical records promise massive opportunities for health benefits, the privacy and security risks are equally enormous.

The Obama administration has set an ambitious goal — to get electronic medical records on file for every American by 2014. The administration is offering powerful incentives: $20 billion for EMRs included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and stiff Medicare penalties for healthcare providers that fail to implement EMRs after 2014.

EMRs offer huge benefits: Improved efficiency by eliminating tons of paper files in every doctor’s office, and improved medical care using the same kinds of database and data mining technologies that are now routine in other industries. EMR systems can flag symptoms and potentially harmful drug interactions that busy doctors might otherwise miss.

But the privacy and security threats are massive as well. When completed, the nation’s EMR infrastructure will be a massive store of every American’s most personal, private information, potentially abused by marketers, identity thieves, and unscrupulous employers and insurance companies.

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