MEDICAL PRIVACY: AMA Voices Concerns
An editorial in the current issue of American Medical News insists that strong medical privacy laws should be adopted by Congress before the federal government moves forward with plans to assign a medical ID number to every American. "[A]t least for now," the editorial states, "it seems certain that security needs related to the identifiers cannot be adequately met. Already medical records are not secure enough. In an era of computers and databases, where information is linked and cross-referenced, the risk is unacceptable that the information will be used for wrong purposes." Asserting that the confidentiality of the doctor-patient relationship must be protected, the editorial contends that the "reticence that would replace" that confidential relationship "could easily outweigh the advantages in efficiency and access to information in emergencies that the patient identifier promises." American Medical News concludes: "This is a crucial time in patient privacy, one that could lead to destructive changes. When writing the rules, policymakers should keep in mind what the big issues of privacy and confidentiality share with even the smallest secret: Once compromised, none can be restored" (August 24/31 issue).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.