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    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Ultimate Data Gathering=Ultimate Data Mining: The Florida legislature is considering supporting a statewide eletronic medical record:

    Bills advancing through the state Legislature would expand local electronic medical record-sharing programs into a single, statewide network.

    "We live in a day of ATMs, BlackBerries and instant messaging," said Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Lake Placid, who is sponsoring the proposal in the House. "But when we step into the health care arena, we step back in time to a paper-based system that's often unsafe and inefficient."

    Grimsley's bills, which provide the first $5 million to establish the online network, heads to the full House on Tuesday. A Senate committee will hear similar bills the same day.

    ....This year's legislation would create the statewide Florida Health Information Network, available to authorized doctors, hospitals and other providers. The estimated $51 million project could eliminate the repetitive paperwork that patients face every time they seek medical treatment, lower health care costs, reduce medical errors and provide lifesaving information in an emergency.

    $51 million is a lot of money. Money that could be used for roads, and schools and hurricane repairs. Is it really worth it?

    There are other concerns as well:

    Rep. Gayle Harrell asked, how can patients be sure their data are protected from the prying eyes of government, businesses or others?

    "The one question that keeps coming up - an issue that is out there, no doubt about it - is the privacy issue," said Harrell, Health Quality Committee chairwoman.

    .....Insurers, pharmacists, even hospitals have aggregated and sold sensitive patient data over the years, said Peel, who founded the Texas-based Patients Privacy Rights Foundation in 2004. Moving to electronic records, she said, vastly increases the potential for collecting and selling such data.

    ....Peel's foundation is pushing Congress to legislate stronger privacy protections. If insurers and employers can access identifiable health data, she said, they can discriminate against the mentally and chronically ill.

    It isn't just insurers and employers that we have to worry about. The government is also looking forward to being able to mine that data. That's one reason so many government bureaucrats are advocating electronic records. Imagine what a zealous public health campaigner could do with the information. Every smoker could be identified. Every fat person. Every poorly controlled diabetic. Once they're identified they could be targeted. That targeting might only be educational efforts, or it could be punitive taxation to make them help pay for their burden on the healthcare system. Paranoid? Maybe. But governments have been known to do worse, and all in the name of the public health.

    posted by Sydney on 4/11/2007 10:09:00 PM 0 comments


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