From remarks at a White House news briefing by President Clinton Friday:

Every American has a right to know that his or her medical records are protected at all times from falling into the wrong hands. And yet more and more of our medical records are stored electronically, and as they have been stored electronically, the threats to our privacy have substantially increased. . . .

To be sure, storing and transmitting medical records electronically is a remarkable application of information technology. Electronic records are not only cost-effective; they can save lives by helping doctors to make quicker and better-informed decisions, by helping to prevent dangerous drug interactions, by giving patients in rural areas the benefit of specialist care hundreds of miles away. . . .

But . . . our electronic medical records are not protected under federal law. The American people are concerned, and rightfully so.

Two-thirds of adults say they don't trust that their medical records will be kept safe. They have good reason.

Today, with the click of a mouse, personal health information could easily, and now legally, be passed around without patients' consent, to people who aren't doctors, for reasons that have nothing to do with health care.

A recent survey showed that more than a third of all Fortune 500 companies check medical records before they hire or promote. One large employer in Pennsylvania had no trouble obtaining detailed information on the prescription drugs taken by its workers, easily discovering that one employee was HIV-positive. This is wrong.