EMR Privacy Issue on Simmer

February 4th, 2009 | Sources: NY Times

Subjects: ,

Those who weren’t already marching toward EMR nirvana before the Big O laid out his economic recovery plan had to be lacing ‘em up after he said, “We will make the immediate investments necessary to ensure that within five years all of America’s medical records are computerized.”

hangonfordearlifeBut no one likes to march in a swamp and that’s pretty much what we’re in when it comes to safeguarding patient privacy in the golden era of EMRs.

Basically, lawmakers can’t agree how to do it.

It hasn’t helped that just recently, security breaches at insurance companies, hospitals and government agencies have compromised the personal health information of several hundred thousand people.

There is no shortage of ideas how to do it. One proposal for example would prohibit the sale of all personal health information contained in EMRs unless the patient consents.

Another calls for patients to control particularly sensitive information like HIV tests and records of abortions and psychotherapy.

A third allows patients to recover damages from organizations that improperly use or disclose their health information.

But there are others who see the privacy kerfuffle as at best meddlesome and at worst a threat to the quality of care.  

Karen Ignani, president of a Big Insurance trade group for example, complained to Congress that requiring patient consent before disclosing personal health information for any reason would, among other things hinder disease management initiatives that coordinate care across providers.

Whatever, the Big O’s people say he wants strong privacy protections but he won’t be happy if the dispute ends up delaying the bill, and no one wants to displease the Big O right now.


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