Privacy groups are sounding alarms as the nation's largest insurance companies finalize plans to allow
millions more customers to post their health records on the Internet.
Insurers like Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna say Web-based tools help patients and physicians keep track of
medical information while potentially holding down spiraling medical costs.
About 100 million insurance customers in the U.S. have access to Web-based tools, but companies don't
have an estimate of how widely they are used. Insurers hope to at least double the technology's reach by
the end of next year.
Aetna Chief Executive Officer Ronald Williams says the change is as revolutionary to healthcare as the
introduction of the ATM card was to banking in the 1980s.
Aetna, which offers personal health records to its customers, says security procedures include a member
login and an online registration Web site with secure sign-ons. In addition, customers can restrict
elements of their records from being shared among health practitioners. The insurer said personal health records are protected by the same security technology
that is used for online banking.
But privacy advocates say there's no guarantee that the records will be safe from hackers. Some worry that patients may refuse to disclose some illnesses to their doctors to keep documents out of databases.
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