Protect Privacy of Electronic Medical Records

A new study released by the RAND corporation, a nonprofit think-tank, has found switching to a system using unique patient IDs for electronic health record management would reduce medical errors, increase efficiency and help protect patient privacy.

The RAND study, which compared unique patient identifiers with other patient-data linking techniques, concluded that unique identifiers would be superior to current systems that use statistical matching. According to RAND, statistical matching, which uses personal information such as name, address or social security number, returns incomplete medical records about 8 percent of the time. Meanwhile, using unique identifiers can reduce the number of errors while enhancing privacy by disaggregating individuals’ health data from their personal information, it said. RAND also estimated a substantial long-term savings, with an up to $11 billion cost compared with roughly $80 billion in annual savings, according to the study.

Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a privacy advocacy organization, disagreed with the study’s findings. “The study was funded, designed and set up to improve the bottom line of the data mining industries,” she said. “Centralized ID systems are privately destructive.”

Peel expressed support for a system of health trusts, independent institutions responsible only to those whose data resides there. In that system, people would be able to review their information to make sure it is accurate and complete, and provide detailed instructions about who can use the data. A health trust proposal (HR 2991) was introduced last year by Dennis Moore, D-Kan., but has not been marked up….

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