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E-Health Records Raise Privacy Concerns About Sexual Health

In February, the US government mandated that doctors and healthcare providers create an Electronic Health Record (EHR) for every American by 2014. This new system, which healthcare providers and government officials can access when authorized, promises to make health care more efficient and less expensive. But there's a growing concern that the adoption of a central, online system could compromise patient privacy.

Some people worry that private information, such as someone's sexual health history, could get in the hands of the wrong people if health information becomes too centralized. One congressman, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, was recently asked specifically if information about STDs and abortion would be included in a person's record. He said that patients would be able to opt out of including such personal information in the electronic file.

Life is always easier when you swap out a paper-intensive system for searchable, sortable electronic databases. But when it comes to health records, there are risks to consider. Would you choose not to include sensitive information about your sexual health in your official e-file?

Image Source: Getty
wildmom wildmom 8 years
I completely agree with the previous two posts. Electronic Health Records are so invaluable in promoting positive patient outcomes that it's hard to imagine sticking with paper files. Healthcare providers see more patients in a day than ever before; having all of the pertinent information helps prevent errors, eliminates unnecessary and repeat tests and enables patients who see multiple physicians to better coordinate their care. I hate filling out those forms, too, which is one reason why I like PHRs (personal health records) that you can create for yourself. I use HealthVault for myself and my family. I look forward to when I can share information with my doctor electronically, too, and maintain my health records myself. As for "sensitive" information; privacy absolutely has its place. When you are seeing a doctor for stitches, he/she doesn't need to know all of your ob/gyn history. I am sure that there is a way to partition information more appropriately.
Ac2366 Ac2366 8 years
I'm all for this. I work in the medical field and to have someone's accurate health history available instantly without having to pry it out of them would be a dream come true. Do you know how many people get angry when you hand them a 2 page health history form to fill out and then don't even fill it out properly or leave out things that they deem unimportant? Way too many. Personally, I wouldn't mind having my own health information stored this way. I would want all my allergies and medical conditions known if I was in trouble and a next of kin could not be contacted.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 8 years
Hard to say. This centralized, health e-file reminds of me of one's credit record, which is centralized, too, and contains sensitive (financial) information. Of course, that's something most adults live with. Wouldn't the health e-file be similar?
chatondeneige chatondeneige 8 years
I can totally imagine this being hacked and the information sold. It's not a pretty picture.
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