Editorial: Redirecting health care

Many experts believe consumer-directed health care — giving patients greater decision making powers through greater transparency in pricing and understanding of possible outcomes — is the path toward a better medical system. Yet one of the key tools to constructing this new model still lags far behind: the broad deployment of electronic medical records and consumer access to this information.
The technology is available, it just hasn’t been widely applied. Advocates of consumer-directed health care routinely advocate policies like broader application of Health Savings Accounts and more choices in public programs like Medicare and Medicaid — all great ideas. But introducing more consumer choice in American health care will never reach its full potential until patients have the information to make informed decisions. Electronic health records are an essential component for patients to make informed and safe decisions.
The lag in utilization of personal health information tools is not due to lack of trying. Technology companies, systems integrators, health-care providers and even government are doing their best to speed the deployment of modern applications of health information technology. One of the reasons why progress has been slow in adopting new applications like electronic personal-health records is that consumers are unaware of the promises these technologies hold. Furthermore, many consumers believe they are already being utilized. Spending more time educating citizens about the promise and prospects of personalized health information technology should be a top priority of the federal government and the private sector.
{Representative Jon Porter never mentions consumers’ rights to privacy, i.e., control of access to their records in electronic health systems, as he urges the wide application of technology to the healthcare system. The survey he selectively cited actually shows that the public has a very strong interest in the privacy and security of their electronic health information. Why would an elected official want an electronic health system designed to violate patient privacy, instead of pressing Congress to build a system using ‘smart’ technology that ensures patients control access to their medical records? A “transparent” system that allows consumers to compare prices for treatment and treatment outcomes is not “consumer-driven.” The only way to have “consumer-driven health care” is to build a system in which consumers have the power to protect their sensitive health information from unwanted access or uses. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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