Exclusive: Major E-Health Records Project Unravels Into Legal Battle

Electronic health systems are supposed to help improve health care. But apparently, if you’re involved with a big project to build an e-health records system, it can be harmful to your own health. Side effects may include headaches, lost sleep, and lawsuits. Those are just some of problems being faced by those involved with the ambitious e-health record systems project launched in December by the Dossia Consortium, an employer coalition that includes Wal-Mart, Intel, Pitney Bowes, Applied Materials, British Petroleum, and Cardinal Health.
Dossia’s ambitious project to provide e-health records to more than 2.5 million employees, retirees, and dependents is unraveling, at least when it comes to the relationship it has with Omnimedix Institute, the nonprofit organization that Dossia hired to develop the system, which was to include a massive, federated data warehouse.
Legal papers are starting to fly. A temporary restraining order was quietly filed in late June by Dossia against the Portland, Ore.-based Omnimedix in the circuit court of the state of Oregon for the county of Multnomah. According to court papers filed by Dossia, Ominmedix is temporarily restrained from filing any suit of its own except under seal.
In its court papers, Dossia says it will “suffer immediate and irreparable harm” if Omnimedix files a public suit that reveals confidential details of the parties’ agreement. Dossia is seeking to settle its disputes with Omnimedix through arbitration.
{Without strong federal laws that ensure that Americans have the right to health privacy and access to all health records are controlled by patients, data banks like Dossia can be data mined. Many insurers and employers are setting up similar data banks. Government, the technology industry, and Congress are all aggressively pushing the nation to use personal health records (PHRs). But PHRs are designed NOT to be covered by existing strong state laws and medical ethics that guarantee privacy by requiring patient consent before records can be used or disclosed. It is also critical to know that so-called “de-identified” health records can always be re-identified. “De-identified” data taken from PHRs is NOT safe or private, and will be used to harm patients. Congress recently proposed legislation to set up independent health record trusts that are safe for storing PHRs. By statute, health trusts cannot ever disclose any data without patient consent and all data mining of PHRs in health trusts is prohibited. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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