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Google's PHR: HIPAA? What HIPAA?


Google has entered the PHR business. This we all know. Some thousands of Cleveland Clinic patients have volunteered to allow Google to store their personal health records (PHR) on-line. Access to the records will be through use of the same ID and password the patients use to get their Google email or calendar. Privacy concerns at the HIMMS conference were dismissed - Google is not a provider of health care services therefore they are not required to be HIPAA compliant.

Healthcare Insurance Portability and Acountability Act (HIPAA) is a civil rights law enacted by Congress in 1996. The Privacy Rule went into effect in 2003, giving patients the right to control who has access to their health and medical information. All health care providers and insurers are bound by law to protect your privacy. Should anyone violate your privacy, they face stiff penalties.

Guess what? Patients lie to their doctors. Doctors lie about their patients. Why? Because by now most patients know that if they don't want to get dinged on their health insurance, they shouldn't talk about the depression they suffered twenty years ago. Some will ask their doctors to keep information that they were former cocaine users out of their medical records. Some will seek care for certain conditions out of pocket so it is not reported to their insurer.

What's the answer? Universal healthcare, where nobody gets dropped and nobody gets dinged. And EMR's managed by health care professionals which are not accessible by anyone except the patient, provider and payor. The electronic medical record (EMR) is an objective, accurate health history. A patient may write in his PHR that he suffers from migraines because he has a bad headache. The EMR may state the patient suffers from severe headaches. Only a doctor can diagnose migraines. Not every bad headache is a migraine - so a PHR is bound to have some subjective inaccuracies in it.

Why the need for privacy? Prospective employers, jilted lovers, your mother-in-law, your children, your parents, coworkers, neighbors all may have an unhealthy curiosity about you. The last thing they need to be reading is your health history. Then there is the identity theft crisis... Predatory people preying on the vulnerable. Umm, sorry Mr. Schmidt, but these are real problems we little people face everyday...

Thanks striatic for use of portrait Privacy is Dead.
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