Coalition Urges Privacy Measures in E-Health Record Legislation
A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers and private companies called on Congress to pass legislation that would protect electronic health records from potential misuse and identity theft, the Washington Times reports.
The Patient Privacy Rights coalition -- which includes Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), the Family Research Council and Microsoft -- says EHR legislation being debated in the House and Senate would allow data mining companies and "four million other individuals and entities" to secretly access private medical records.
Coalition Chair Deborah Peel said, "If you think we've got a problem with identity theft now, just wait." According to Peel, the group's concern is that data mining firms could sell private medical information, which could be used by potential employers and health care providers to discriminate against people with mental health or other chronic illnesses. Peel said she supports efforts to increase the use of EHRs, but Congress at the same time must provide the same level of privacy protection that is given to members of the military.
Markey said that "tough privacy safeguards" are essential for integrated health databases, which hold "probably the most sensitive and personal information that we have about ourselves. Without strong privacy safeguards, a health (information-technology) database will become an open invitation for identity thieves, fraudsters, extortionists or marketers looking to cash in on our medical histories" (Pfeiffer, Washington Times, 10/18).