Practice Fusion expands, shows signs of rapid growth

Excerpt from the article by Diana Manos:

Practice Fusion, a company that provides free online electronic health records to physicians, announced last week it will partner with Physician Services, Inc. (PSI) of California and Azalea Health Innovations, Inc. of Georgia to expand the types of services available to its clients.

According to Ryan Howard, CEO of the San Francisco-based Practice Fusion, the company is on target to be one of the fastest growing electronic medical record (EMR) vendors in the country, with close to 100 physicians signed up since the launch of the service two months ago.

Ryan attributes the growth to a special “Live in Five” process, which allows new clients to be provisioned, logged on and charting within five minutes.

“We have changed the experience of EMR selection and made the decision process and start-up much easier, and as a result we are becoming the de facto standard for small to medium sized physician practices,” Howard said. Physicians benefit through low total cost of adoption, a simplified start up process and on-demand architecture that makes the whole process low-risk, he added.

For the full story, click here.

This story illustrates the most common way electronic health records systems make money: by stealing and selling YOUR data. Ryan Howard, the CEO of Practice Fusion, is quoted as saying, “Every healthcare vendor is selling data. Everyone has this data, but we’ll have more of it and it will be real-time and aggregated.” Practice Fusion subsidizes its free EMRs by selling de-identified data to insurance groups, clinical researchers and pharmaceutical companies and by placing medically relevant ads within the EMRs, Howard said. Howard clearly cares nothing for consumers’ rights to privacy. Although the information sold is supposedly “de-identifed”, it is very easy to re-identify health data, endangering consumers’ future opportunities for jobs, credit, and insurance. What is really disturbing is that the doctors who use the cheap ($50/month) Practice Fusion software apparently do not realize they too are violating their patients’ privacy rights under strong state law, common law, tort law, and medical ethics. Physicians are required to obtain informed consent before disclosing patient health information. Do these doctors ask their patients’ consent before Practice Fusion data mines and sells their health data? It seems unlikely. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights

Practice Fusion expands, shows signs of rapid growth

Practice Fusion, a company that provides free online electronic health records to physicians, announced last week it will partner with Physician Services, Inc. (PSI) of California and Azalea Health Innovations, Inc. of Georgia to expand the types of services available to its clients.

According to Ryan Howard, CEO of the San Francisco-based Practice Fusion, the company is on target to be one of the fastest growing electronic medical record (EMR) vendors in the country, with close to 100 physicians signed up since the launch of the service two months ago.

Ryan attributes the growth to a special “Live in Five” process, which allows new clients to be provisioned, logged on and charting within five minutes.

“We have changed the experience of EMR selection and made the decision process and start-up much easier, and as a result we are becoming the de facto standard for small to medium sized physician practices,” Howard said. Physicians benefit through low total cost of adoption, a simplified start up process and on-demand architecture that makes the whole process low-risk, he added.

{This story illustrates the most common way electronic health records systems make money: by stealing and selling YOUR data. Ryan Howard, the CEO of Practice Fusion, is quoted as saying, “Every healthcare vendor is selling data. Everyone has this data, but we’ll have more of it and it will be real-time and aggregated.” Practice Fusion subsidizes its free EMRs by selling de-identified data to insurance groups, clinical researchers and pharmaceutical companies and by placing medically relevant ads within the EMRs, Howard said. Howard clearly cares nothing for consumers’ rights to privacy. Although the information sold is supposedly “de-identifed”, it is very easy to re-identify health data, endangering consumers’ future opportunities for jobs, credit, and insurance. What is really disturbing is that the doctors who use the cheap ($50/month) Practice Fusion software apparently do not realize they too are violating their patients’ privacy rights under strong state law, common law, tort law, and medical ethics. Physicians are required to obtain informed consent before disclosing patient health information. Do these doctors ask their patients’ consent before Practice Fusion data mines and sells their health data? It seems unlikely. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

Leading surveillance societies in the EU and the World 2007

Each year since 1997, the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International have undertaken what has now become the most comprehensive survey of global privacy ever published. The Privacy & Human Rights Report surveys developments in 70 countries, assessing the state of surveillance and privacy protection.

The most recent report published in 2007, available at http://www.privacyinternational.org/phr and may be purchased in book form through EPIC’s website, is probably the most comprehensive single volume report published in the human rights field. The report runs over 1,100 pages and includes 6,000 footnotes. More than 200 experts from around the world have provided materials and commentary. The participants range from eminent privacy scholars to high-level officials charged with safeguarding constitutional freedoms in their countries. Academics, human rights advocates, journalists and researchers provided reports, insight, documents and advice. In 2006 Privacy International took the decision to use this annual report as the basis for a ranking assessment of the state of privacy in all EU countries together with eleven non-EU benchmark countries (click here for the 2006 results). Funding for the project was provided by the Open Society Institute (OSI) and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. Follow this link for more details of last year’s results.

The new 2007 global rankings extend the survey to 47 countries (from the original 37) and, for the first time, provide an opportunity to assess trends.

The intention behind this project is two-fold. First, we hope to recognize countries in which privacy protection and respect for privacy is nurtured. This is done in the hope that others can learn from their example. Second we intend to identify countries in which governments and privacy regulators have failed to create a healthy privacy environment. The aim is not to humiliate the worst ranking nations, but to demonstrate that it is possible to maintain a healthy respect for privacy within a secure and fully functional democracy.

{This the second year that EPIC and Privacy International have published this survey and ranking of nations. The US is at the bottom, descibed as an “endemic surveillance society”, with “weak protections” for “medical privacy”. The way to restore the privacy of all our personal digital information is to fight for health privacy, and join with Patient Privacy Rights. If we restore the right to health privacy, we will then be able to demand the same control for all of our personal digital information. Americans understand that they have the right to control who can see and use personal medical records, based on the Hippocratic Oath and based on over 200 years of American common and Constitutional law. Our courts have consistently held that our VERY strongest rights to privacy are the rights we have to health privacy, to control the privacy of our health information. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

Federal healthcare IT funding cut short

Federal efforts to advance healthcare IT will have to be made on half the amount President Bush hoped to get for next year.

In a heated 11th-hour compromise to create a funding package amenable to the president, healthcare IT came out short.

Congress approved Wednesday $61.3 million of the president’s requested $118 million for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

{The nation’s health IT system should NOT be funded at all, unless federal support for health technology is coupled with restoring Americans’ longstanding legal and ethical rights to control access to their health information and ending the systemic data mining and sale of health records by corporations and government agencies.  Congress gave HHS only half the requested funds for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). With half as much money, maybe ONC won’t be able to damage our privacy rights as much in 2008 as it did in 2007. Our tax dollars are being spent to harm every man, woman, and child in the US by destroying a cherished American freedom: the right to keep our sensitive personal health information private.~Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

D.C. bill would regulate pharma reps, use of Rx data

A bill to regulate pharmaceutical sales representatives was approved 7-6 on first reading by the District of Columbia Council on Dec. 11.
The bill, said to be the first of its kind, would require the licensing of those sales reps, prohibit using physicians’ private prescription data for marketing purposes without their consent, and create a program for educating doctors on the latest drug research as a way of countering biased marketing-driven information they receive from sales representatives.

New Harvard survey casts serious doubt on future of RHIOs

Electronic clinical data exchange across the United States is far from a reality, with few organizations facilitating such exchange and many failing in the process, reports a new study by Harvard researchers published today on the Health Affairs Web site.
The study, based on a 2007 survey of 145 regional health information organizations (RHIOs), is an assessment of the state of electronic health data exchange in the United States.
Electronic health data exchange between hospitals, doctors’ offices, labs, and other clinical settings has been hailed by many in the healthcare industry as the key to improving the quality, efficiency, and coordination of care. But the new survey, funded by Harvard’s Program for Health Systems Improvement, identifies serious barriers to achieving this goal with the current approach.
{“RHIOS don’t work because the only legal and ethical way to make the health information flow is with informed consent.” ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

Doctor organizations’ concerns put brakes on health IT bill

An attempt to quickly pass a Senate health information technology bill was derailed after medical groups raised concerns about its quality measurement, patient privacy and funding provisions.

Senators in mid-November considered but could not agree on “hotlining” the bill, a term for passing it by unanimous consent without formal floor debate, said Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee spokesman Michael Mahaffey.

Mahaffey declined to specify the disagreements but said the most serious was whether the bill, the Wired for Health Care Quality Act, contained adequate patient privacy protections. The delay occurred after the American Medical Association and 35 other physician organizations sent a Nov. 9 letter expressing their concerns to the legislation’s main sponsors, Sens. Hillary Clinton (D, N.Y.), Edward Kennedy (D, Mass.), Mike Enzi (R, Wyo.) and Judd Gregg (R, N.H.).

{It’s gratifying that this year the AMA and other medical organizations are standing with consumers and patients to defend Americans’ longstanding ethical and legal rights to privacy and to control access to personal health information.~Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

Ask.com Puts a Bet on Privacy

Will privacy sell? Ask.com is betting it will. The fourth-largest search engine company will begin a service today called AskEraser, which allows users to make their searches more private.

Ask.com and other major search engines like Google,Yahoo and Microsoft typically keep track of search terms typed by users and link them to a computer’s Internet address, and sometimes to the user. However, when AskEraser is turned on, Ask.com discards all that information, the company said.

Ask, a unit of IAC/InterActiveCorp based in Oakland, hopes that the privacy protection will differentiate it from more prominent search engines like Google. The service will be conspicuously displayed on Ask.com’s main search page, as well as on the pages of the company’s specialized services for finding videos, images, news and blogs. Unlike typical online privacy controls that can be difficult for average users to find or modify, people will be able to turn AskEraser on or off with a single click.

“It works like a light switch,” said Doug Leeds, senior vice president for product management at Ask.com. Mr. Leeds said the service would be a selling point with consumers who were particularly alert about protecting their privacy.

{One of the worst things about online searching is that your search data and information on what you buy is sold and used to identify and profile you. This is most disturbing in two areas: the state of your health and psychological profiling for political use. Patient Privacy Rights is especially concerned about people being profiled based on their searches for health information. Many “health” websites collect your data and sell it. The problem is employers, insurers, and creditors want to know about your health in order to make decisions about you. Ask.comwill keep where you search private, but the websites you visit may not keep your data private and may sell it. People searching for information about Depression may not expect that the websites they visit and the questions they ask are valuable data especially to employers.~Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights.}

Rx companies should save lives, not data

In response to Joseph Conn’s “Data-miners unite in Maine to block ‘opt-out’ Rx law”: As a fourth-year medical student, I find it quite troubling that doctors have an uphill struggle to wage, just to protect their prescribing data, and in doing so, protect their patients.

It is bad enough that drug companies and their salespeople spend $15,000 a year per practicing physician to bribe them into prescribing more of the “me-too” expensive medications. And let us be clear, it is not “education” when they come to talk to us at lunch, and the samples they give us are hardly “free” gifts. It is all a calculated move to manipulate physicians’ prescribing of medications to maximize the profits of the drug companies and their stockholders. And as Merriam-Webster or any other dictionary will tell you, gifts given to people in a position of power/trust, as is the case in the exchange between drug companies and physicians, is a bribe, nothing more and nothing less.

Thus, it is ludicrous that within medicine the American Medical Association is complicit in a system that creates industry-centered, not patient-centered, prescribing of prescription drugs. They sell data (for $45 million a year) on all medical students and physicians, a small minority of which are members of the organization. Their weak opt-out program, which is endorsed by the pharmaceutical industry, is so flawed that even someone as vehemently opposed to the practice of data-mining as I am would consider it a waste of time to opt out, except for the moral principle of the action. Opting out only says that the bottom-level drug company employees will be restricted from my data, but even that is a self-enforced rule with the pharmaceutical industry itself, with no teeth to it.

{A medical student points out the immorality of the billions in profits the US data mining industry makes by selling the nation’s prescription records, while people with devastating illnesses like HIV/aids cannot afford the medications they need to live.~Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

Facebook Status: Mark Zuckerberg is Sorry About Beacon

Yesterday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg publicly apologized about the social network’s poorly implemented, privacy-invading Beacon ad program, which broadcast users’ off-Facebook activity in news feeds and caused an ensuing ruckus among geeks and privacy advocates.

From Zuckerberg’s blog post statement:

Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.

This has been the philosophy behind our recent changes. Last week we changed Beacon to be an opt-in system, and today we’re releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. You can find it here. If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.

Facebook has, as of yesterday, allowed users to turn off Beacon entirely, but what’s fascinating about this apology is that the word “advertising” does not appear once in the entire blog post. By framing Beacon just as an information-sharing feature, Zuckerberg is sidestepping one of the most offensive parts of Beacon – that its sole purpose is actually utilizing Facebook’s massive user base to market to each other via what are implied pseudo-recommendations.

{If you love Facebook beacons, you will love the “Wired” Act the Senate is pushing that guarantees we have no control over the use and sale of our personal health records. Facebook users were outraged to find they had no control over information about what they purchased—just imagine how upset they will be when they find out they have no control at all over their sensitive medical records. Due to massive public criticism, Facebooks’ founder decided to stop broadcasting users purchases via the Beacon ad program. Now Mark Zuckerman, Facebook’s founder, is affirming Americans’ longstanding rights to privacy and control over their personal information. Zuckerman said, “Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}