It's time for patient advocates, healthcare providers, insurers and the government to reach a historic compromise on the privacy of medical records.
And the clock is ticking. As part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the federal government is supposed to adopt uniform data standards for patient medical records, including the electronic exchange of data. Recommendations and legislative proposals for accomplishing this are ongoing. Congress must have completed action on the privacy standards by August, or HHS can create them by regulation.
But instead of working together to create a workable system, the factions involved seem intent on bickering and protecting their own interests.
A radical change of attitude is the way to get things rolling. First and foremost, patient records must be positioned as the property of patients, not some government agency, gatekeeper physicians or health insurance companies.
Once that tenet is established, a private-sector government-information blitz is needed to convince the public of the economic and clinical merits of standardizing and sharing medical data.
Forces must converge to adequately address privacy and security issues, including safeguards that protect individually identifiable health information.
Once those goals are accomplished, much is at stake. Pooled data, standard classification and accepted guidelines could do much for medical research, public safety and administrative efficiency. This issue begs the leadership of healthcare providers.