Privacy and Patient Control Are the Missing Parts of Electronic Health Records Legislation

While raising reasons why electronic health records will improve medical care, the June 24 New York Times editorial "Our Pen-and-Paper Doctors" failed to mention how attention to privacy and patient control can foster adoption of the electronic system. Seventy percent of Americans fear that medical privacy protections will be reduced in the name of efficiency.

Patients need to recognize we can have both efficient, shared electronic records and privacy.

But elected officials must create rules that prevent the sale, sharing or reuse by third parties like pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and data brokers of personally identifiable health information. As businesses develop secure data storage systems, they need to be barred from commodifying patient information.

Furthermore, Congress should build into health information technology proposals consent provisions to allow patient control over certain data.

Technology alone will not make the system effective in emergencies or other situations. Patients and doctors have to confidently cooperate.

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The most important issue is the question of privacy. Medical records contain a lot of private information that patients do not want strangers to see.Some may feel that medical privacy protections will be reduced in the name of efficiency.

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