Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Medical Privacy Requires Protection


From Typhoid Mary To Diabetic Debbie is an opinion piece by Phillip Longman in the Washington Post last Wednesday, beginning by pointing to a strange new law in New York, which became effective on January 15, 2006.
New York City began requiring local clinical laboratories to report to the city health department the results of blood sugar tests performed on citizens. The department plans to use the information to improve surveillance for diabetes, which afflicts an estimated one out of eight New Yorkers and to "target interventions."
Let us all hope this law falls quickly. Public agencies have no business doing ANY type of surveillance of medical records! What on earth are they thinking? Does this not immediately raise alarm bells about what non infectious types of threats the health department may choose to monitor next? That odd law sounds as though it were authored by those with a financial interest in "Diabetic Interventions" - Wow!

In his commentary he uses a flawed logic in supporting the need for free flow of medical information in order to allow protection of the public, whether from the threat of developing diabetes due to eating too much candy, or from inhaling second hand smoke from public smoking holes.

Longman joins the list of those decrying the protections of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) which has threatened some long term health studies undertaken before HIPAA was enacted in 1996 to help protect medical privacy. Longman cites the need for

the idea that every American should have a lifelong, electronic medical record. The promise is that such records would lead not only to better coordination of care among different providers but to fewer medical errors, more scientific medical practices, and ultimately, greatly reduced costs.
... which he believes should be completely open and accessible to the medical community as a whole.

This belief most often stems from a frustration by profit-making entities like pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers that they can't run wholesale through public medical records looking for potential money-making opportunities and allowing them free data outside of those expensive (because they must fund them) and overly regulated medical studies (with tedious and burdensome laws) which take too long to complete and require scientific proofs by the medical community.

Reporters have been frustrated with HIPAA protections for years now because it meant that the ambulance chasers among them had suddenly been cut off from juicy emergency room gossip. Why? Because due to medical privacy laws, medical staff are no longer allowed to tell them who is injured, ill or diseased and how it came about.

Now those in the pharma and medical device industry can no longer pore over private medical records searching for free data to support their latest patent-pending. What a shame. Twila Brase of "Citizens Council on Health Care" wrote a letter to the editor in the Post responding to Longman's support of "Lifelong Medical Records" accessible for "Surveillance" by public agencies and corporate patent-pending industry. She sums up the core issue nicely ...

In Mr. Longman's view, every person should be "watched" through his or her medical record. Such intrusions would not only reduce the accuracy of data in the medical record -- wreaking havoc on research -- but also would cost more than a pretty penny to undo the resulting damage to the public's and patients' trust.
Hooray for HIPAA. Boo for medical "surveillance" by public agencies.

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posted by RealitySEO at 8:38 AM

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