[ Friday, October 15, 2004 ]


Health Information Technology in the news: Recent days have seen the publishing of a couple of stories I should have noted earlier. First, from the Washington Post: theFDA has approved technology that would allow individuals to have a microchip implanted under their skin. The microchip wouldn't contain the medical records of the patient, but would serve as an identifier that would link the person to their medical records, which would be stored electronically and be retrievable by anyone who had access to the chip's information. The technology has been in use for some years in the pet industry, where owners have a chip planted in Fido so that if he is lost, he can be returned to the rightful owner. The benefit of this technology would occur if you were injured and unconscious and taken to an emergency room that was equipped to read the chip. Your body would be scanned, the chip would identify you, and the ER doctors would be able to determine your identity and search your medical records to detect any drug allergies or medical conditions that might impact your care. The downside of the technology is pretty apparent: someone with access to a chip reader and the medical records could discover your medical history without you ever knowing it.

The second related article, from the Arizona Republic, involves on-line electronic medical records, so that an individual and his doctors can easily access his or her medical information. The patient could check lab results on line without bothering the doctor's staff (or after-hours), and multiple doctors seeing the same patient could easily share information. Again, the downside is the possible access by improper parties.

Of course, there's a dynamic tension between free use and disclosure of medical information (which is what you want when the release of the information can help you) and the restriction of the information (which you want when you want privacy or when the release could hurt you).

Jeff [10:26 AM]

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