Medical privacy laws vs. adoption of electronic medical records

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2009

Nearly every policy wonk in the health care debate favors faster adoption of electronic medical records, but laws passed at the urging of other policy wonks seem to be getting in the way:

Hospitals have seen a decrease in EMR adoption in states where privacy laws restrict their ability to disclose patient information, according to a study published in the journal Management Science.

The study shows that states that have enacted medical privacy laws restricting the ability of hospitals to disclose patient information have seen a reduction in EMR adoption by 11 percent over a three-year period or 24 percent overall. States with no such regulations, on the other hand, experienced a 21 percent gain in hospital EMR adoption.

[Health Care IT News via HIPAABlog]

{ 2 comments }

1 Monty 07.16.09 at 2:57 am

Whats really annoying is that for all the medical privacy laws on the books, you have no privacy protection against the state. The various state health departments have almost unlimited access to patient data, including patient identification. They get to know who you are, what you have, and what treatment is being performed. In some cases if the doctor knows anything about you they are legally obligated to pass it along.

So while all those laws may protect you against snooping by private companies and individuals, the notion that your medical records are actually private is totally false. Digitizing healthcare records just makes it even easier for the government to fish around in there. I’m not saying they are doing anything bad with the data, but I for one don’t think they should have it at all. (without permission of the patient). So maybe by slowing electronic record adoption, those privacy laws are doing some good.

2 Richard Nieporent 07.16.09 at 10:07 am

Privacy laws that are supposedly designed to protect us, in fact hurt us. The rationale behind privacy laws is that they prevent insurance customers and employers from using the information to deny us insurance and jobs. However, what they end up doing is killing us. How many patients are injured or die due to the lack of accurate medical records? It is absolutely crazy that every time you go to a different doctor you must provide all of your medical history and the drugs you are taking from scratch. If doctors had accurate information they would be able to avoid prescribing drugs that you are allergic to or that interact with other drugs that you are taking.

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