Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another Fight Card in the Information Technology vs. Privacy Match-Up

Link to January 17 New York Times article, "Privacy Issue Complicates Push to Link Medical Data".

In one corner, we have the health care industry lobbyists, promoting $20 billion for electronic medical records technology in an $825 billion (and counting) economic stimulus bill.

In the other corner, we have consumer groups who insist that stronger safeguards must be in place in order to insure patient privacy. (As the article notes, [i]n the last few years, personal health information on hundreds of thousands of people has been compromised because of security lapses at hospitals, insurance companies, and government agencies.)

Among the proposed safeguards:
1. Outlaw the sale of any personal health information in an electronic medical records, except with the permission of the patient.
2. Allow patients to control what information is released (e.g., sensitive information such as records of psychotherapy, abortions, AIDS tests)
3. Require health care providers and insurers to use encryption technology to protect personal health information.

Boxing, of course, is a poor metaphor to use when people's health and privacy are at issue. But if you are a regular reader of political news, our elected officials, unable to referee, are always "fighting" on our behalf.

And look where that has gotten us.

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