Electronic & Personal Health Records
There is a push in the United States for health-care providers to establish electronic health records (EHRs) and for consumers to adopt personal health records (PHRs). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the primary difference between between EHRs and PHRs is that EHRs are held and controlled by providers, whereas PHRs are held (via private companies) and controlled primarily by consumers.
The 2009 economic stimulus law (Public Law 111-5) plans for each American to use an EHR by 2014. Proponents claim that EHRs will help lower costs and improve the quality of health care. However, others have pointed out both privacy and security concerns with EHRs. To that end, unless consumers are free to choose whether or not to have EHRs, many will be inclined to withhold private information. This is especially true of those aware of existing data breaches. According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, since January 2005 the U.S. has experienced over 260 million data breaches, including those relating to breaches of financial and health-related records. Moreover, Open Security Foundation (DataLossDB.org) reports that 12 percent of data breaches involve medical organizations.
There is a wide diversity of views on the risks and benefits of EHRs and PHRs. Thus, such determinations should be established on an individual basis, rather than a one-size-fits-all policy. To that end, all Americans should have the freedom to decide whether or not to have/use EHRs and PHRs.
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(Summary updated November 2009)