California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is pissed off. His wife, Maria Shriver has joined the list of celebrities who have had their hospital records invaded by unauthorized hospital employees. As I've written in previous blogs, our curiosity about celebrities often overcomes our good sense and professionalism. Even the charts of former presidents have not been immune to prying eyes. Certainly, this phenomenon is not new. The paper chart was a wide open book and unless the invader was caught red-handed no footprints were left behind. The Electronic Medical Record makes tracking down unauthorized violations of privacy easily traceable.
The California Legislature has signed into law two new bills designed to protect patient privacy. A new office of Health Information Integrity has been created and penalties of up to $250,000 have been enacted for breaches of privacy.
It is not just celebrities who are vulnerable. Each of us wants our medical records available only to the practitioners responsible for our care. It is not just the details of our health history that we are concerned with. Our vital demographics: address, phone number, social security number, and insurance information are ripe for download.
Well publicized breaches of privacy are creating a hysteria that can derail our best efforts to implement a much-needed national Personal Health Record.
"Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear..." The Terminator (1984)