Judge Approves Minnesota Health Officials’ Plan To Collect Patient Medical Information
An administrative law judge yesterday ruled that the Minnesota Department of Health can begin to collect medical information on most state residents as part of a "massive" patient data bank, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. The health department plans to collect patient data from hospitals, HMOs and other health insurers to "better track" the quality of care provided in the state's health care system and to develop plans to improve the system (Majeski, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/3). The health department plans to encrypt the data, which will include patient names, birth dates, street addresses, diagnoses, prescriptions, race and gender, before researchers can view the information. Administrative law Judge Allan Klein said in his decision yesterday that despite concerns over medical privacy, the health department demonstrated that the data bank is "reasonable under state law" and that officials have taken "adequate safeguards prevent misuse of the information," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Klein, however, said that the health department was "impermissibly vague" about which information that officials plan to encrypt.
Dave Orren, a spokesperson for the health department, called the decision a "relief." He said, "I really do think that the perception of some people that the data is going to be collected by us and basically posted on a billboard is just wrong" (Lerner, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/3). Twila Brase, president of the Citizen's Council on Health Care, which opposes the data bank, said, "We're disappointed but we're not surprised. We were hoping (the judge's ruling) would be a little less positive toward the department's position." She added, "We did state, and we still assert, that there are oversteppings of the law, but the judge did not find in our favor on those points. There's nothing to prevent them from, sometime in the future, collecting genetic information. I don't think the battle is over" (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 12/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.