Privacy shield crucial for online health records (opinion)

Dr. Deborah Peel of writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:


Now America is on the threshold of entering the digital era of health record keeping. Google and Microsoft have just introduced health record keeping software. Congress is considering standards to make health record systems interoperable, allowing easy access to records using different software and from different health care providers.

While Congress takes its time trying to determine standards, HHS pushes ahead with its experiment with medical records systems. Perdue and state legislators and health officials should ask these questions:

• Is the HHS site plan premised on the right of consent? In other words, in nonemergency situations does the patient have the right to determine who sees her information and under what circumstances?

Consent given for one reason is not readily transferable. It applies simply for that reason.

In other words, if a patient agrees to have her doctor share her record with a specialist, that record should not also be part of research or marketing efforts without separate, informed consent.

• Does the HHS plan allow patients to segment sensitive parts of their record, not permitting widespread access? In other words, a nurse delivering a flu shot will not be entertained by the details of one’s suicide attempt when one was a teenager three decades ago.

• Does the HHS plan provide for an audit trail to determine who has accessed your health records and under what circumstances? Georgians would likely be astounded to see how many eyes are on our private health information.

The foremost beneficiaries of widespread availability of health data will not be patients.

It will be employers who will use that data in helping to determine hiring. It may be credit firms.

It will be the data-mining firms that will use that data to push their wares on consumers.

Georgians need to know that there are no effective standards to protect privacy using health information technology right now.

The U.S. Senate nearly passed a bill, the Wired for Health Care Quality Act, only to have it held up because the American Medical Association and privacy advocates, including Patient Privacy Rights, were concerned it lacked effective privacy protections.

Now Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has introduced the Trust Act, which contains effective privacy protections and which is supported by groups ranging from Gun Owners of America to the National Association of Social Workers.

Georgians need to pressure the state Legislature to explore not just the benefits of electronic medical records, but also the potential pitfalls.

Preventive medicine is not just for aches and pains, it’s sound practice in this new digital era.

Full Story – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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  1. Anonymous - March 7, 2008

    I am a medical doctor. I see patients every day. Including the Emergency Room where I work.

    During thousands years physician have follow this hippocrates oath sencente: What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself, holding such things shameful to be spoken about.

    So at the moment I designed the keyose ( service, I have a very clear idea: privacy must be the priority number one!

    Read more on:

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