Click a Button, Access Your Medical Records, Lose a Little Privacy

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Electronic health records make it easier than ever for patients to access their personal health information, but privacy concerns remain.

If you missed the Health 2.0 conference like I did, don’t worry: several bloggers have posted some interesting reports about it. One that caught my eye was Jane Sarasohn-Kahn’s summary of a meeting held to discuss the phenomenon of networked patients -- an ever-growing number of people who use online resources to research, engage, and be heard.

Much of the summarized discussion had to do with patients’ ability to access their own data and medical records. As you’re aware, there’s been ample debate regarding who exactly owns these records, and although state laws generally give ownership to the physician or treating facility, patients have the right to access much of the information contained in their records. Unfortunately, they have to jump through a few administrative hoops to get access.

The Obama administration declared that it wanted to change that hassle for veterans and Medicare recipients last summer, and at the Health 2.0 conference, the VA and CMS presented the “Blue Button” solution, which allows patients to download individual health information. If you’re interested, there’s more information in an announcement posted last week by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

So far, I haven’t seen online commentary regarding what effect this new service might have on privacy. HIPAA only extends so far, and EHRs have long been suspected of throwing further kinks into already flawed patient privacy protection.

I also wonder if hospitals and healthcare systems will feel the pressure to follow suit, especially in light of potential liability concerns.

What are your thoughts?

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