Health information technology - including electronic medical records, electronic health information exchange, and personal health records - have the potential to dramatically improve our health care system. Survey data shows that the public clearly wants electronic access to their health information - both for themselves and their health care providers. At the same time, people have significant concerns about the privacy of their health information on-line. In one recent survey, 67% of respondents were either "somewhat" or "very concerned" about the privacy of their personal medical records.
The failure to address public concerns about the privacy of their health information could have significant consequences. Without appropriate protections for privacy and security in the healthcare system, patients will withhold information from the health care providers - or decide not to seek treatment - because of fears about how their personal health information could be misused. Ignoring concerns about privacy - or inadequately address them - will significantly threaten public trust in these new e-health technologies, and in our overall healthcare system.
Privacy concerns are often described as an "obstacle" to moving forward with health IT. In fact, the opposite is true. Building privacy and security protections into e-health systems is the key to accelerating the adoption of health IT.
Next week we have a unique opportunity
to make our voices heard on the importance of protecting privacy in health IT, and what policies and technical tools need to be adopted in order to build public trust.
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