Protecting privacy while gathering health data

Stephanie M. Lee reports that the recent announcement by rival insurers Blue Shield of California and Anthem Blue Cross that they would team up to create an health information sharing network with their combined 9 million patients is raising privacy concerns. All members will be participants by default in Cal Index unless they opt out. 

Lee Tien of EFF gets to the crux of the matter:

As Tien put it, “The industry has never liked opt-in. Privacy advocates believe in opt-in.”

By default, the 9 million patients in Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross will become part of the network. Before the system goes live, members will be told of a website where they can choose to not have their information shared, said Dr. Ken Park, vice president of payer and provider solutions at Anthem Blue Cross. Those patients will still receive coverage and treatment.

Cal Index chose this approach to try to balance privacy protection and participation rates, given that rates can sometimes be lower when people are asked to opt in, Park said.

Read more on SFGate.

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