No surprise the new HIT Policy committee is gearing up to eliminate privacy, i.e. patient control over personal health information, using the excuse that the entire nation’s records are needed for biosurveillance and research without informed consent. See the quotes from Drs Calman and Clark. The title of the article says it all: “Committee studies public health, research“.
The committee is dominated by industry appointees who will make sure the policies they come up with grant unfettered government and industry access to Americans’ most sensitive personal data, from prescriptions to DNA.
What they don’t get is they will lose the public’s support and trust if they build a system where everyone’s health records can be data mined for any research purpose. A Westin/Harris IOM poll found only 1% of the public would allow researchers unfettered access to their electronic medical records. The government and the research community are completely at odds with the public’s rights to health privacy.
The reality is millions of Americans already refuse to participate in healthcare systems that harm them because they have no control over their medical records.
HHS noted in the Preamble to the HIPAA Privacy Rule that 600,000 Americans/year avoid early diagnosis and treatment for cancer because treatment records are not private private. Two million people/year with mental illness avoid diagnosis and treatment for the same reason: their records are not private. The Rand Corporation found that 150,000 Iraqi vets refuse treatment for PTSD because their treatment is not private, resulting in the highest rate of suicide in active duty military personnel in 30 years.
Can this commitee face reality when they have severe conflicts of interest and want the use of Americans’ health data?
The lack of privacy drives millions away from healthcare. And the lack of privacy causes suffering and death–bad outcomes.
It looks like patients’ and consumers’ best hope for preserving their health privacy rights in electronic systems may be Gayle Harrell. She may be the only committee member who can face reality.