Medical Technology and Privacy

Elizabeth Roberts Health Guide
  • I'm really torn about how to vote in the upcoming election when it comes to health care policy. I have faith that if she's elected, Hillary Clinton will do what she is promising now and really reform health care. Mitt Romney's track record as governor of Massachusetts, where he pushed through universal coverage, shows he takes the issue seriously. John Edwards is passionate on the issue, which isn't surprising given Elizabeth Edwards' battles with breast cancer. Barack Obama's proposals are Hillary-lite, but I don't even trust he'll follow through if elected president. His wife Michelle is a hospital corporation executive, which could give him a vested interest in the status quo. Pillow talk makes the most effective lobbying....Giuliani and the other Republicans are newbies to the issue of health care reform, even though one of the smartest pollsters in the Republican Party, Doug Bailey, has been advising Republicans since the early 1990s to get on top of health care issues.

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    There is one issue where the major candidates - Democrat and Republican - share a mind-numbing conformity. They've all bought into the line pushed by Bill Gates and other technocrats that putting medical and psychiatric files on-line will improve health care. Microsoft and other software vendors are salivating about the sales they will make to thousands of medical offices if the government mandates that records migrate on-line.


    Okay, good things could happen with on-line medical records, like fewer medical errors. Since medical errors kill 100,000 people a year - far more than car wrecks - that could be a good thing. But every Windows user knows technology isn't infallible. Data gets corrupted, viruses strike, people enter bad data. So medical errors might decline - or they might get worse.


    One thing that will get worse is privacy. In fact, electronic medical records will mean you can kiss goodbye forever the quaint notion of doctor-patient confidentiality. Lobbyists have already inserted provisions into pending legislation on Capitol Hill that destroys privacy. Drug companies will have the right to data-mine your records and those of millions of other Americans. The government will be able to access your file for data-mining for public health purposes (as defined, of course, by the government) and so will research institutions. Government snoops, with or without warrants, will be able to access your records from their laptops. It won't be long before consumer information-brokers like Experian get the right to access the medical files and match them to individual, Social Security number based files on every American.


    How will the data-mining be used? To identify high-risk individuals and raise their insurance rates? Or deny them credit, or raise interest rates, because higher medical risks mean higher credit risk? Maybe to mandate specific health treatment for at-risk individuals, like more push-ups for the obese so they don't get diabetes? Or to check and see whether you've used a credit card to buy a carton of cigarettes while claiming on your insurance application to be a non-smoker? Most likely, the data will be used to try to sell us products or treatments, using our individual doctors as sales representatives.

Published On: December 17, 2007