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Obama’s health records plans still raise privacy questions

February 9, 2009 by  

Some people are wary of putting medical records on the internetPresident Obama campaigned on the platform of healthcare reform, but his plans to computerize medical records are facing opposition from some privacy advocates.

According to a 2006 survey by the Markle Foundation the majority of Americans saw electronic health records as a way to reduce medical mistakes and costs. However, 80 percent of them expressed concerns about identity fraud and the possibility of their data being used by marketers.

The debate has now returned as Obama is pressing Congress to pass his stimulus package that would provide funding for a project to computerize the medical files at hospitals and doctors’ offices across the country.

In January, the ACLU expressed support for the privacy provisions included in the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health act, part of the stimulus package bill that was passed by the House of Representatives. However, the organization expressed concerns about the possibility of weakening amendments as the bill moves through Congress.

"Without the privacy provisions proposed in the HITECH Act, Americans will fear justifiably that their most private, personally identifiable information concerning their medical histories and conditions will be available to prying eyes," concludes the ACLU statement.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the legislation does not resolve the issue of patient consent in the use of records. Currently, patient information can be shared without consent when it comes to treatment, payment, and "healthcare operations" – a term that can include marketing.

As the debate continues, the Senate is expected to pass the stimulus package this week. It contains provisions for multibillion dollar government investment in infrastructure, healthcare, IT technology, and environment.
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