Health IT

By Alice Lipowicz

Blog archive

How not to find out you have cancer

Would you want to find out you have skin cancer by reading the diagnosis in an e-mailed copy of your electronic medical record? Of course not. Nobody would.

Most doctors are also shocked by that possibility. They much prefer to deliver the news in person so they can fully explain the diagnosis and provide some treatment options and comfort.

As the Health and Human Services Department gets ready to hand out $17 billion for developing electronic health records, one of the areas that needs further study is whether and how to regulate how patients get their digital health records. Under the recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published Dec. 30, 2009, HHS requires that patients get access to their records. However, the department didn't provide much detail about the specifics.

Patients might be in for some unpleasant shocks if they have unhampered access to their records for the first time, according to an interesting report  from Fred Schulte at the Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

With all the emphasis on giving patients access, there will still be lots of questions about how to do it right. I’ve written recently about information therapy principles and about the Hl7 standard for how and when to provide the information. But it’s still just the beginning of this important discussion.

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 at 12:14 PM


Reader comments

Fri, Mar 5, 2010 Mike

There is nothing much to discuss. The patient has a right to all of his or her medical data. All. Of. It. And there can be no legal or ethical reason to deny people access to their own personal property - the medical record. Doctors want to delay transmitting information for their own personal convenience and justify this hording from their own arrogant assumptions.

Mon, Feb 1, 2010 Dave

I would RATHER get such news via e-mail, so I could process it without anyone else around. The real issue here is the medical establishment views medical records as THEIR property, rather than the patients' property. This has to change, and the sooner they accept it, the easier it'll be for them: medicos will have to learn to communicate better, that's all.

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