Archive for December 4th, 2006

New York Times on Privacy and EHRs

December 4, 2006

In the December 3rd edition of the New York Times, a story titled “Health Hazard: Computers Spilling Your History” examines privacy of electronic medical records. In addition to finding how hospitals can successfully defeat attempts of employees to sneak a peak at medical records of the rich and famous (including President Clinton), the author cites concerns in Congress, e.g., “But the toughest challenge may be a human one: acute public concern about security breaches and identity theft.” This is cited as the major barrier to adoption of EMRs by physicians in the U.S. while other western countries have up to 89% use. One observation of a policy analyst: “If you don’t have the trust of patients, they will withhold information and won’t take advantage of the new system.”

Well said, but much of the task of protecting privacy is proper planning and implementation of systems. One of the biggest threats appears to be health care workers who store patient data on laptops. With all the methods of securing laptops or better yet, accessing centralized systems through secure channels, why should this continue to be a risk.

One note on PHRs: “EVEN without new federal laws to guide them, some companies have begun
to encourage their employees to embrace electronic medical records. At Pitney Bowes, employees are paid a bonus if they store a copy of their personal health records on WebMD.com, the medical Web site.” An encouraging sign and a new way to use incentives.

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