Friday, April 29, 2005

Private companies to begin hosting electronic health records

Apparently private companies are soon going to enter the market offering to host people's health records. This can be an obvious benefit for those who want to keep all this info in one place. Of course there are privacy risks that have to be addressed; It'll be self-regulation or buyer beware because HIPAA will not apply to the services:

World Peace Herald:

" Companies are expected soon to begin offering the public personal health record or PHR services, allowing individuals to maintain copies of their health records online, regardless of which doctor they may be using.

Such services could make it easier to obtain records in an emergency, and they could make life simpler for busy families that move frequently or face complicated medical situations, such as several young children on different vaccination schedules, or an elderly parent on multiple medications.

Data from such records also could be very valuable to pharmaceutical companies seeking to market new products, to researchers studying health trends or to public health officials monitoring the population for spikes in illness.

Officials are concerned, however, that data submitted to private PHR services could be packaged and sold commercially without appropriate privacy precautions or the informed permission of those submitting the data. Third-party services are not necessarily covered by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which, among other provisions, limits the sharing of health data without the patient's express permission.

'Because of the HIPPA [sic] loophole, third parties, whether they are profit or non-profit, are not covered by HIPPA[sic],' said Paul Tang, chief medical information officer at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California. 'In other words, consumers and patients do not have (legal recourse and) I think that is a real concern.'..."

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