Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusettes is leading a coalition that will spend about $50 million that will allow for the creation of a medical records system in three communities. This will cover about 2,000 physicians, hospitals, pharmacies, and potentially nursing homes and community health centers. The goal is to reduce the number of medical errors by allowing physicians to log into a central database containing all of a patients medical records. This is an alternative to keeping patient records on paper in filing cabinets.
With any new advance in technology and information sharing where the data has such a high level of sensitivity attached to it, privacy concerns are abundant. First, I am skeptical of the system when the primary investors are insurance companies. It seems that the insurance companies have a vested interest in consolidating all of a patients records into one location. Personally, and as a researcher, this concerns me because I don’t think that insurance companies should have access to such a database. Although I don’t see where it is explicitly stated that they would have access to the database, it seems very possible that this is one of their goals. Additionally, I am concerned about so many people having such easy and transparent access to my data. The possibility of pharmacist or nurse looking up a neighbor or potential boyfriend in the database seems all too likely.
The adoption of such a system can undoubtedly bring forth advances in medical treatment and research, but at what cost to personal privacy? I urge everyone to consider the value of their medical history and the medical history of their friends, family, and community as an alternative to blindly accepting this new system.
Read more about the medical records database here.