Letter: Patient privacy hard to protect, even for advocates

In response to Joseph Conn’s ‘U.S. lagging in EHR privacy policies: report': Thank you for the update on this important issue of patient privacy. The difficulty in this country is that even if a hospital is willing to block the dissemination of personal health information, it is extremely difficult to do so.

The technology employed by many hospitals links the billing and clinical functions such that the information, e.g., coding, necessary for billing automatically creates a clinical record, usually on a searchable network. In addition, any medical encounter with the hospital, an X-ray for example, also creates a diagnosis that disseminates on the network as either a “problem” or a “visit.” These different functions are intimately connected by the software, such that the hospital would have difficulty billing without creating this type of record. Very few patients are aware of this and when informed are extremely concerned. This technology is not going away and it is critical that it be amended to protect privacy.

Michael Corbett, M.D.
Needham, Mass.

{The electronic health records system where this doctor practices violates patient privacy. There are few electronic health systems that are designed to adequately protect patient privacy. Those designing electronic health systems wanted to facilitate the flow of data and did not design systems to comply with strong state laws, common law, the physician-patient privilege, or medical ethics. These strong legal and ethical requirements for consent before health information is disclosed are being ignored since HIPAA was gutted to allow data-sharing without consent. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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