Privacy, trust still the biggest barriers to electronic record sharing

Joe Vanden Plas • 04/23/07

Madison, Wis. – Is America rushing into the adoption of electronic medical records and patient data exchange without enough concern for data security?

The question has been raised on many fronts, including the Congress, where some bills seek to provide incentives to encourage the adoption of interactive personal health records, and others that raise privacy concerns are construed as a barrier to the adoption of EMRs.

Moreover, headline-grabbing data breaches in both the public and private sector are still fresh in the public’s mind.

As healthcare institutions in both Madison and metropolitan Milwaukee try to develop a framework for patient data exchange, we put the “rushing into” question to attorneys who practice in the healthcare sphere.

Attorney David Hanson, a partner in Michael Best & Friedrich and chairman of its healthcare practice group, noted there are people in the health field who think the industry already is spending too much time and money on patient data security – thanks to regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

In addition to HIPAA, most states, including Wisconsin, already have patient confidentiality regulations in place.

“That backdrop doesn’t change with the advent of shared medical records,” Hanson stated.

Carrie Killoran, a partner in Michael Best’s healthcare practice group, where one of her areas of emphasis is patient confidentiality, said healthcare providers are mindful of security concerns and regulations. The issue boils down to the context in which they are willing to share patient data, and which data sets should be shared.

Rather than a rush to adoption, Killoran said privacy concerns have delayed the implementation of EMRs. “They aren’t rolling them out as fast as clinicians would like,” she said.

Before any additional laws and regulations are adopted, she said health providers would like to see the HIPAA framework fully implemented and get a sense of how it’s working.

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