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The British NHS Dancing With the Devil— Out of Touch or Just Out of Its Mind

March 3, 2009
by James Feldbaum
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“Government plans, contained in the Coroners and Justice Bill, would allow almost unlimited access to medical records of named individuals without their consent”, according to and article this morning in the Telegraph.

“Under the proposals, patient information held by GPs, health centers, pharmacists and hospitals could be passed to insurance companies or research organizations. The data could also be given to other government departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions to check whether people who claimed benefits were able to work”.

The bill which has been working its way through parliament has met strong opposition from doctor’s groups. Ministers have agreed to reconsider aspects of the bill.

Even if this bill doesn’t pass it represents total disregard for the privacy that is so critical to the doctor-patient relationship. Patients with HIV, depression, victims of abuse, etc would be hesitant to seek treatment if their records are shared or sold.

As more and more companies are joining Microsoft and Google as hosts for a Personal Health Record it is clear that we need one national voice on information sharing. Clearly, anonymized data used for public health has unquestioned social benefit, but sale or use of other data must be strictly regulated with consistent and severe penalties legislated for infractions.

Recently released Justice Department memos have cast doubt on our constitutional protections (at least during the past administration). We are no longer able to rely on trust. Our protection must be unequivocally etched into our implementation of the EMR and PHR.

Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men. Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

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James Feldbaum

Jim Feldbaum is a physician consultant specializing in clinical transformation, CPOE, and...