MEDICAL PRIVACY: Electronic Health Info Concerns Some
Many high-tech companies are designing software for the health care industry that promises "greater convenience, efficiency and savings," the Sacramento Bee reports. The computer programs can calculate bills, store electronic patient records, warn doctors "of potential adverse drug reactions" and remind them "to ask patients specific questions about lingering ailments." The Bee reports that the "rise of medical information tech companies coincides with increasing demands from HMOs and businesses for doctors to show that their patients are getting the best care possible." According to Sheldon I. Dorenfest and Associates, medical information technology spending "is expected to increase from $13.6 billion to $21 billion by 2000." But some doctors are skeptical of this trend. "Some say the technology remains prohibitively expensive to small offices and private practices" and others believe "the systems are too complex or have not existed long enough to prove their dependability." And at least one hospital system -- Sutter Health -- is finding that installing its outpatient electronic records is more complicated than expected. Officials originally thought it would take two to three years to install the system, but after four years the system is just getting started with its pilot program. "It's a herculean task," said Sutter's Dr. Andrew Greenhill (Young, 11/30). Other health care experts are worried that the electronic storage of medical information opens "up new threats to security." Bruce Spurlock, executive vice president of the California Healthcare Association said, "The public's concern about confidentiality is a justified one." The Bee reports that there is "a widening circle of health care professionals and consumer groups calling for new safeguards to be developed to protect computerized records from pilfering, alteration and prying eyes" (Young, 11/30). Click medical privacy for past coverage of this 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.