Wednesday, May 11, 2011

EMRs and Privacy

Today I got the chance to talk with a doctor at UW. I asked him what he though of EHRs that enabled data sharing between health care providers. He brought up some interesting points.

Basically, he didn't think it would be that useful for doctors. In fact, he thought that it would have some negative consequences. Specifically, he claimed that people would not be truthful if they knew a lot of people might have access to that information. Would you answer truthfully if someone asked you how many sexual partners you've had, if you knew a lot of people might have access to that information? Apparently, people are hesitant to give out that information even when they know that only the doctor will know about it. He thought that a more available EHR would just create more falsified records. This would make the EHRs unreliable.

He brought up another point about logistics. Where do you store this EHR? Do you associate it with your health card? Well in our case, that would only work in Ontario. Further, what happens when you lose your health card? I think the industry uses EMPIs for this right now. 

This is coming from a doctor that's been working with these healthcare systems for over 30 years. It's an interesting point of view.

I think a lot of these problems can be solved by thinking carefully about the privacy concerns with EHRs. Patients should have the power to specify which information is available for others to see. I think a lot of these concerns may be solved by storing all the information with the patients. That way, patients are in control of their health care records. 

In any case, I'm very curious to see how this pans out. I certainly don't have a solution for how to solve these problems, but I'm sure something interesting will emerge within the next 5-10 years.

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