Not all agree with privacy week’s focus

Who can argue with a week devoted to “raising awareness among healthcare professionals, their employers and the public of the importance of protecting the privacy, confidentiality and security of personal health information?”
Deborah Peel, an Austin, Texas, psychiatrist and founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, that’s who. Peel is arguing about the focus on personal health records and other nuances of the privacy debate that the American Health Information Management Association put forth as part of its fourth annual Health Information Privacy and Security Week, which was held last week.
In particular, Peel was upset with a statement in AHIMA privacy and security week education materials that declared: “Consumers should establish a personal health record.”
Specifically, she questioned the privacy of records created by insurance companies and employers, and worried that the information stored in these PHRs could be used against patients.
“The health data in PHRs is not protected by any laws and will be held in databases owned by corporations not subject to laws or medical ethics that guarantee privacy,” Peel wrote in an e-mail to Health IT Strategist. “PHRs are being designed to facilitate the data-mining, aggregation and sale of Americans’ health records.”
{PHRs will never truly be safe, secure, or private until federal law protects the privacy of Americans’ health information wherever it is stored and no matter what databank holds it. Currently PHRs are being designed and given to millions of employees and people with health insurance to facilitate the data mining and sale of their electronic medical records. The privacy of PHRs depends on whatever promises your insurer or employer makes to you—NOT on law. This makes them very dangerous. It is possible to design PHRs that have ironclad privacy protections due to multiple levels of encryption and public key infrastructure that prevent data mining no matter which data bank they are stored in. BUT ironclad privacy-protective PHRs are not what Aetna, Dossia, and most others are offering. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}