The Price of Privacy

By Michael Hickins  |  Posted 2008-06-26 Print this article Print

Do you think patients will trade a certain amount of privacy in exchange for better, less-expensive health care? Do you think this is a trade-off that will have to be made for health IS to provide value?

Conklin: Yes, I think that they will, as long as the information stored in records can be kept private and we answer very fundamental questions about how information can be used against individuals (for example, companies not promoting or hiring individuals with risk factors of some kind known only through medical record).

Frankly, this last point is something that argues from my perspective for removing employers from the insurance mix. Instead, we might have a government-managed pool into which employers contribute and that is allocated to payers based on some criteria. This might, in fact, make payers more competitive and consumer-conscious. Government already has a portion of the needed infrastructure in place with Medicare to manage this.

Temple: It is going to take a real "sales job" on the part of the health information exchanges to instill confidence in the consumer community that their sensitive medical information is safe. 

The finance industry has made great leaps in this regard, but compromising someone's health data can be considered to be an even bigger violation in many ways [than compromising financial data] and even more dangerous if certain entities were to wind up making hiring, life insurance or other key decisions based on data that was legitimately or illegitimately gleaned from a health information exchange.

So, it is going to be a tough sell. Every time I think we may be making progress, there comes along another report of sensitive medical data being compromised somehow-stolen laptops or things of that ilk-and the sales cycle starts all over again.

At some point down the road, we will get there, but we as an industry really have to improve our security safeguards and articulate the message to consumers once we are confident that we have mitigated the lion's share of the risk that people might experience with having their medical data potentially accessed "pervasively," so to speak.



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