Access-Privacy Balance Could Prove Elusive for Hospitals

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media , March 2, 2010

"We reject the balancing idea," Peel countered. If patients fear that their information will not be kept private, they will either lie, refuse to get treatment, or postpone care, she said. "If people don't trust it, they won't come in the door, or they'll come in the door late."

She also criticized single identifiers, saying the public has rejected use of social security numbers as ID for "decades," and adding that there is "no reason" not to get the information from patients at point of care.

"Right," mumbled one audience member. "Because patients never lie."

Other audience members had objections, too. If patients can edit their drug lists or hide information from some physicians but not others, one CIO asked, how do you prevent adverse drug interactions? "We have to give patients Miranda warnings," Peel said. In other words, she said, caregivers must tell patients about the risks of not disclosing all of their health information with all of their doctors.

She also said systems can be set up to catch adverse drug interactions and send the alerts directly to the patient.

I wonder if you can guess the reaction to that statement from those experts in the room who would be in charge of creating such a system. If you guessed grumbles, you'd be wrong—it was really more of a hybrid: a collective groan, sighs of frustration, and a mass rolling of eyes.

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