Thursday, October 20, 2005

Commercial and corporate interests

Commercial and corporate involvement in personal health records for their employees.  IBM and other companies have announced the PHR as an added benefit for their employees.  On the surface this appears to be a stimulus for the development of electronic health records.  There is however no mention of the privacy and/or ownership of these EHRs since they are to be maintained on corporate servers.  It is also not mentioned whether this service will be contracted out to private PHR vendors or whether IBM intends to develop their own PHR.    If so, there is a strong and clear conflict of interest. Present HIPAA laws restrict access to patient records to providers with permission of the patient.  Many companies have self insurance or insurance plans, and these entitites must be restricted from accessing the medical record without specific consent. While employers invest in this technology they have no rights to their content.

These companies recognize the benefit to them in terms of their employees maintaining good health and preventive care, which can be documented in a PHR.   It remains to be seen whether this record can be intereoperable with the provider HER.   Without this, the data must be reentered at the provider office, which decreases it’s intended effectiveness.
The positive aspect is that the patient can carry with him these records if it is accessible via internet  or downloaded to a portable memory device.  The vendor market for PHR is expanding rapidly with many new entrants in the past six months.


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