An article in today’s New England Journal of Medicine warns that although there are many benefits to Microsoft and Google’s potential involvement with electronic health records, there are privacy risks that people should be aware of.
Sarah Rubenstein of The Wall Street Journal reports, “Both technology giants have unveiled online personal health records that patients can use to store what could be treasure troves of data — for the patients as well as everyone from clinical researchers to marketers. But a critique in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine points out that the two companies aren’t “covered entities” under the major federal law, HIPAA, which has patient-privacy protections. Translation: They don’t have to follow it.”
The main benefit to electronic health records is that they would be quickly accessible to any doctor. This saves patients and practices a lot of time transferring records from doctor to doctor. RT Image’s Keri Forsythe, a supporter of electronic medical records wrote in her blog, “Our medical records are one of the most important items we can have. They tell our life stories – the medications, illnesses, etc., that we’ve had since birth. So they should definitely be put in a safe – and non-flammable – place.”
Just today Health Imaging News reported that WellPoint, the largest membership insurer in the United States, has notified its 130,000 insurance plan members that their personal information, including Social Security numbers, pharmacy or medical data, were accessible online to unauthorized users over the past year, because of unsecured servers being used by an unidentified technology vendor partner. This is a clear example that electronic information is not always secure – no matter how private it is.
Dana Blankenhorn from ZDnet is another supporter of electronic health record. He wrote today that “Each doctor’s office I visit, each hospital, each clinic, has a file on me. It’s behind the nurse’s station. Usually it’s on paper. Sometimes it’s in a computer. But it’s not going anywhere — control resides with the physician. And I’m not really given access to it, although by rights I should be. In these debates Google and Microsoft are stand-ins for the loss of data control to the customer.”
What’s your opinion on electronic medical records?