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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Say NO to Electronic Medical Records

We already know that Google generally collects and sells data (a good reason to use for your search engine). They've also been implicated with government spy and law enforcement agencies.

We also know that electronic medical record will not save money as well as the fact that HIPAA was the open sesame for everyone to get access to your data.

You do have a choice, and most likely it is to find a health care professional that doesn't do third party insurance billing and takes cash.
From Times Online July 27, 2009

David Davis: Google is the last company I would trust with my personal dataSam Coates, Chief Political Correspondent
Google cannot be trusted with sensitive personal data and any plan to transfer health records to the company is “naive”, David Davis writes in The Times today.

The former Shadow Home Secretary, who resigned from the Tory front bench to campaign on privacy issues, says that companies should not be able to make money out of holding patient records.

Mr Davis has been tipped for a return to frontline politics if the Tories win the general election. However, in today’s article he labels as “amoral” a company with close ties to the Conservative Party — David Cameron’s adviser Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, Google’s head of communications.

He also criticises the work of “young researchers” in Conservative headquarters and queries whether Mr Cameron’s notion of the “post-bureaucratic age” may further damage public trust in the state.

This comes amid divisions in the Conservative Party over its cherished policy of publishing government-collected statistics, which underpins many of their plans for public-sector reform.

An insider told The Times there was a “healthy debate” over whether information such as hospital cleanliness ward by ward or street-by-street crime data should be released free or sold. Some believe that there is vital money to be made for the Exchequer.

Others say that existing commercial websites have failed to turn a profit from the small amount of public-sector data already freely available, raising questions over whether private companies would fulfil the function of websites currently run by government.

Mr Davis, who has championed privacy issues since he refought and won his parliamentary seat of Howden & Haltemprice in a by-election last year, accepts that there are “massive weaknesses” in the NHS patient records database, which is not expected to be fully delivered until 2013-4.

However, he adds: “Google is the last company I would trust with sensitive personal data belonging to me. In the words of Privacy International, Google has ‘a history of ignoring privacy concerns. Every corporate announcement has some new practice involving surveillance’.”

He says that Google, whose chief executive Eric Schmidt is on a Tory advisory board, has a “near monopoly internet presence, combined with legally unfettered use of vast quantities of personal data”.

Senior Tories emphasise that there are still huge barriers before health records could be transferred to private-sector companies such as Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault. A review is underway by Dr Glyn Hayes, a member of the British Computer Society.

There still appears to be disagreement inside the party over whether patients — or their GPs — should act as the gatekeeper for records. It may be up to GPs, rather than patients, to chose which company stores the data, for instance.

David Cameron has repeatedly said that he does not want a big central state-run database for health records. “For every penny we could save on the computer that isn’t really working very well we could put money into nurses and doctors and patient care.” The NHS points out that health records are not held centrally, but by individual trusts.

One stumbling block in the idea to transfer records to services such as Google Health would be that this could make it inaccessible to hospital doctors in accident and emergency facing a patient unexpectedly.

Patients brought unconscious into hospital, for instance, may not be able sign over electronic “permission” for the A&E doctors and nurses to see their notes.

Senior Tories have decided however this is not a fundamental flaw in the idea. They have been told by doctors that A&E staff, for instance, have not in the past required comprehensive notes in the first few hours when a patient is critically ill and that patients often have other ways of indicating allergies, such as wristbands.

The most important part of the Tory plan, insiders say, is that all systems used to maintain patient records — whether managed by the patient themselves or their GP — must be electronically compatible with one another.

Google, the search engine, has said there are no circumstances in which it would sell health data to outside companies, even in an anonymised fashion.

The company strongly rejected suggestions it they would consider selling data for health trials by pharmacuetical companies.

Challenged over how the Google Health service in the UK could make money, the company said its goal was to “drive brand loyalty and more searches on where we make our money on advertising”, adding “at this time, we have no plans to host ads into Google Health”.

However, they hinted that in future they could, in principle, use the service to sell advertising.

A Google spokeswoman said: “We would not serve ads on Google Health without fully informing our users in advance.”

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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