One of the goals of the federal government’s Affordable Care Act is to universally implement the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR). What this means is that federal health authorities have begun a push toward converting all Americans’ health data and medical histories into a digital format which can be easily accessed and shared by doctors, insurance providers, scientific researchers and the patients themselves.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020, which outlines the goal of advancing the “collection, sharing, and use of electronic health information to improve health care, individual and community health, and research.”
Under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which was introduced in 2009, a majority of doctors and hospitals have already begun to convert patient data into digital form.
Proponents of the plan argue that it will improve healthcare for Americans by making it easier for doctors and hospitals to access and share vital patient info, and through creating a database to be used in medical research.
Although there would seem to be some merit in creating such a system, many are voicing concerns over privacy — part of the plan includes making these electronic records available to more than 35 federal agencies.
These agencies include the Bureau of Prisons, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense and even NASA.
Although the creators of the plan state that one of their first concerns will be the protection of patient privacy, critics are skeptical — pledges to “anonymize” and “de-identify” the data are likely to fall short of the mark.