The use of electronic medical records is growing. However, concerns about patient safety need to be addressed, as the protection of their medical information should be at the forefront of EMR use. Recently, Bloomberg touched upon Dr. Latanya Sweeney's research on this topic. In 2010, she created an infographic to highlight how widespread electronic medical record information could go and to emphasize the need to protect patient privacy.
(Graphic Credit: Dr. Latanya Sweeney)
Looking at this graphic, one might be surprised where medical information goes without patient or physician knowledge. Employers, the government, pharmaceutical companies, and more could have legal access to patient records and patients may be unaware. Even when no clear identifying information is present, it's still possible to piece together the clues and figure out which patient the health information came from. Currently, there are not defined tracking standards to prevent or monitor this access.
Technological advances are outpacing guidelines, so more understanding and contemplation about new rules is warranted. Information access by third parties has doubled in the last ten years and the information includes more personally identifiable details. Dr. Sweeney is delving deeper into her research through TheDataMap.com, using contributed data to build a better understanding of where data goes and how to control the flow in a more responsible manner. Technology is meant to improve patient health, as well as the face of medicine in general, but it must be done with patient safety in mind.