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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Technology Plays Key Role in Health Care Reform

But will technology cause us to sacrifice our privacy?

Electronic Medical Records: The Promise continued...

Rubin agrees: “We need to be able to implement an electronic medical record where physicians can talk to each other about patients, and hospitals and physicians can communicate back and forth and share critical information on tests done and previous diagnoses, so that everyone involved has the patient’s medical history at their fingertips,”

This will ultimately save money by reducing unnecessary, repeat tests, and cutting back on the time it takes to make diagnosis, Rubin says.

But it also opens a whole new can of worms.

EMR: The privacy pitfall

It’s one thing to have your financial information online, but your health information is another story altogether. Many people have real fears about what could happen if their medical records fell into the wrong hands.

The benefits of EMRs are real, but so too are the barriers, Savard says. “Health care information is the most private and the safeguards can’t be strong enough, and we may not ever get over this barrier.”

The fear factor is two-fold: general Internet security and confidentiality,says C. Martin Harris, MD, the chief information officer at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Most people are really expecting the organization to manage technical security such as the threat of hacker,” he says. On this front, the fears – and their antidotes -- are among the same as they are for doing your Christmas shopping with a credit card.

“The differential is really related to confidentiality of medical records,” he says. The fear is that someone, say an insurance carrier, could get access to information, and use it against you.

Although you can’t prevent such a breach, certain safety nets may make it less enticing to any and all potential voyeurs. “Audit trails in some systems can tell you who looked at your records, when they looked and what page they looked at,” Harris says. This may be a major disincentive.

Any safety net will be put through the ringer if a universal electronic medical record is developed and implemented, Rubin says.

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