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By M.L. Baker  |  Posted 2005-02-01 Print this article Print

Deborah Peel, chairman of the Appeal for Patient Privacy Foundation, thinks a national health information network could very well marginalize patients who fear that their personal information could be shared without their consent or that their consent could be coerced. In an e-mail to, she said that as a psychiatrist she had seen banks and employers use patients medical records to make lending and hiring decisions. Insurance companies have used them to deny benefits and coverage. In a statement sent to Brailers office, her organization stated, "Patients will avoid treatment, lie, omit information, use aliases, and seek totally private black-market health care" to avoid disclosure of sensitive conditions. The organization goes on to recommend against blanket consents for future content of medical records, and that even possession of a medical record without consent should be considered a crime.
Peel also said that HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) provided little protection, "The Bush administration flipped the HIPAA privacy rule into a disclosure rule, where patients cannot control any routine uses of their medical records." Both Brailer and health information technology organizations maintain that patients should be able to view their medical records and have control over the information they contain. But the choice between having an inaccurate medical record and one that leaves a patient susceptible to discrimination is not one that a free and healthy society should force its citizens to make. Instituting safeguards in how medical data is used is essential but insufficient. Patients must also believe that these safeguards are working and that they are safer with an electronic medical record than without one. I welcome your thoughts on how to make sure that happens. Please e-mail me at Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis of technologys impact on health care.

Monya Baker is co-editor of's Health Care Center. She has written for publications including the journal Nature Biotechnology, the Acumen Journal of Sciences and the American Medical Writers Association, among others, and has worked as a consultant with biotechnology companies. A former high school science teacher, Baker holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Carleton College and a master's of education from Harvard.

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