Patient Privacy at Issue in Vermont’s Bid for Electronic Health Records

When you go to a new doctor, you probably don’t pay much attention to the document you are required to read and sign that discloses how information about your condition and treatment is shared with others. And even if you did study the form, called a “Notice of Privacy Practices,” you might still have no idea who has access to your medical records and how their contents can be used.

Don’t feel bad. Despite committing millions of dollars over the past three years to set up an electronic “health information exchange” in Vermont, state policymakers are far from understanding how to control the spread of sensitive patient information in the digital age.

In an effort to figure it out, an advisory group of attorneys, consumer advocates and health professionals has begun meeting to discuss how information should be shared electronically among physicians and insurers. Burlington attorney Anne Cramer, a member of the group, said the discussions are a response to concerns by the American Civil Liberties Union and other consumer groups that the state’s long-range plan for the exchange lacks detailed privacy provisions.

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