Letter -- Electronic Medical Records and Patients' Rights

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In his Dec. 22 op-ed, "Connecting the Medical Dots," Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt made some good points about the need for health information technology systems to be interoperable. However, Mr. Leavitt missed the mark on consumer protections and privacy. When it concerns health IT, the devil is in the details.

Central to building electronic medical records systems is the question of who will gain from this massive endeavor. We, the patients, would gain from a reduction in prescription errors, and increased efficiency would benefit both patients and providers. But gains could be made moot by outsiders with malicious intent. Medical data brokers purchase the private records of innocent Americans and then share our information for marketing purposes and financial gain. This kind of activity can directly affect our opportunities for jobs, insurance and credit.

Congress must do all it can to block access to medical records for companies that have no direct contact with patients. If Congress includes funds for health information technology in the stimulus package, it must ensure that patient privacy is part of the package.

That means significant strengthening of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act to protect all Americans against the sale of our private medical records. Taxpayers should not provide a blank check to build electronic medical records systems without receiving guarantees of accountability, control and transparency.


Executive Director

Patient Privacy Rights


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