Friday, April 4, 2008

Medical privacy

When I have googled for information on particular spine issues, the search results generally include litigation for worker's compensation cases or car accident cases, giving the victim's name directly, as well as detailed medical and personal information and information about the victim's psychological state (since having all your vertebrae crushed is apparently a sign you're insane rather than in pain). If that doesn't make the victim, or even their spouses in some cases where they have been named, unhireable for any future jobs, I don't know what would. I am horrified when I see people named in these cases. They deserve better. A pseudonym or initials can be used, as they are for other kinds of legal cases. People still have a right to medical privacy.

New computer technologies bring up other issues with medical records and privacy. While something like the MedicTag flash drive can save lives in an emergency, digitizing all medical records so that patients carry them to new physicians presents a problem: patients are no longer in control of their medical records, while physicians have more control over what is recorded and how it is interpreted. Currently, patients have the option of handing over labwork and radiology and letting a new physician draw his or her own conclusions. People who have a number of health problems and who hand over all their files on CD are going to be labeled as problem patients when they come into a new office. I find it better when I control the rate of information with a new specialist; my disorders, even the heart rate issue, are quantifiable, documented, and reproducible, but when I let everything be known early on, I am disbelieved. It's better to have each physician see on his or her own, bit by bit. They also learn over time that I am resistant to medical procedures and interventions and will delay seeking care long past when others would.

Further, digitizing records will make it easier for insurance companies to micromanage physicians. If the information is readily accessible on disc, an insurance company can more easily argue against using a particular treatment for a particular illness, even when discussion between the physician and patient indicated that another choice would not work. People are not machines. The body is not a machine, and different bodies respond to various drugs and courses of therapy in completely different ways.

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