April 24, 2024

US patients need medical records privacy

There should be a right to informed consent

from Wall Street Journal
US patients should have
the right to refuse to allow their medical records to be shared, says
psychiatrist Deborah C. Peel in the Wall Street Journal. “The privacy of an
electronic health record cannot be restored once the contents are sold or
otherwise disclosed. Every person and family is only one expensive diagnosis,
one prescription, or one lab test away from generations of discrimination.”

Dr Peel is worried that
the Senate healthcare bill approved by the House of Representatives on Sunday
will accelerate a trend to less privacy for medical records. President Obama
has vowed ensure that every American has an electronic health record by 2014
and last year’s stimulus bill allocated over US$36 billion to build electronic
record systems.

But she feels that this
is a terrible mistake. Currently prescriptions are data-mined by pharmaceutical
companies; lab tests are disclosed to insurance companies; employers can access
employees’ records. If people realize that they will lose even more privacy,
they may be reluctant to see a doctor at all. A California study in 2005 found
that found “that one in eight Americans avoided seeing a regular doctor, asked
a doctor to alter a diagnosis, paid privately for a test, or avoided tests
altogether due to privacy concerns”.

Dr Peel’s organization, Patient Privacy Rights, wants
information technologies which allow patients the option of refusing to share
some or all of their medical records. No stimulus package funds should be used
to build systems which do not have these safeguards, she says. ~ Wall
Street Journal, Mar 23

Michael Cook
medical records