Health information technology legislation is swirling around Capitol Hill this week, and theres no shortage of recommendations of how it should be done.
Privacy advocacy groups began circulating a petition Thursday to bar employers from viewing patients health information and giving patients control over who can see what medical information.
The heads of the two advocacy groups who wrote the petition say that, designed properly, electronic health records can protect privacy better than their paper counterparts.
Thats because, unlike paper files, electronic systems can show varying levels of information to different people as well as track who tries to access what information.
But such controls must be mandated from the start, said Deborah Peel, head of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation.
"If health IT is built without protections, then every American is exposed to the same kind of damaging practices that Wal-Mart is seeking to implement," she said, referring to a recently leaked memo in which department store executives planned how to hire and retain employees likely to have the lowest health costs.
The petition being circulated by the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center states that patients should be able to choose who can view medical records, explicitly bars employers from viewing employees medical records and states that sharing private information should not be a precondition of receiving care.
Also this week, the Commission for Systemic Operability released 14 recommendations to ease the creation of systems that could instantly supply a patients health information when necessary.
The Commission, a bipartisan group created explicitly to advise Congress, recommended that anyone who knowingly attempts to obtain restricted information face criminal prosecution and that the Department of Health and Human Services figure out how to protect patients from the consequences of unauthorized access.