Study: Public support for e-health has strings attached

Patient ID is trouble spot for commission

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Although Americans strongly support the idea of a nationwide electronic medical information exchange network, that support hinges on the development of strong privacy policies and the ability to control the use of their records, according to a study released today.

The study, sponsored by the Markle Foundation and the result of a survey by Public Opinion Strategies, shows that the policies that guide the use of IT in any health information project must involve privacy, said Zoe Baird, president of the foundation.

"All kinds of approaches [to electronic health records] need to be successful, but the privacy and security of records needs to be addressed," she said.

The foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Agency for Healthcare research and Quality have formulated seven consumer and patient principles that consider those needs. The groups believe those principles should be embedded in the formation of any health information organization.

The principles include allowing individuals to conveniently and affordably access their records, authorize who can see them and when, and designate publicly accountable independent bodies to oversee local and nationwide health data exchanges.

The first goal is to get a consensus from the various players about the principles and then to get those who are building regional health information organizations (RHIOs) to see if they are fulfilling them, said David Lansky, executive director of the Markle Foundation's Personal Health Technology Initiative.

Several active RHIOs are building in audit functions to enact at least some of the principles, such as allowing individuals to review who has seen their records, he said.

The seven principles and the survey results are being presented at a Washington, D.C., conference on consumers and EHRs.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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