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New privacy guidelines for electronic health records

December 18, 2008 by  

Electronic health records raise privacy questionsAs the government moves toward the adoption of electronic health records, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced new privacy guidelines for the treatment of these records.

The eight principles announced by the HHS this week cover patient access, record correction, transparency, patient choice, limitations regarding the records, data integrity, safeguards and accountability.

Announcing the guidelines, HHS secretary Mike Leavitt stressed the importance of the individual having control over their data and not being forced to accept "privacy risks."

"Consumers need an easy-to-read, standard notice about how their personal health information is protected, confidence that those who misuse information will be held accountable and the ability to choose the degree to which they want to participate in information sharing," he explained.

During his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama promoted the use of electronic health records as having the potential to reduce costs, as well as increasing efficiency and accuracy.

Some groups, such as the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, have raised concerns about the possibility that such records could be misused by insurance companies, lawyers, advertisers and others if they gained access.

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