EHR Systems Should Balance Efficiency, Patient Privacy

Lora Bentley

A few weeks ago, just prior to an appointment with a new doctor, I received a packet of paperwork to fill out before coming in. An hour and 10 pages later, I had written down every current prescription, medication allergy, prior surgery and existing condition, as well as answered an exhaustive family medical history questionnaire. When I got there, the intake nurses asked an abbreviated version of the same list of questions, and then I got them a third time when the doctor came in.


But when I had to answer the same questions a fourth time in the same day before a series of X-rays could be taken, I was annoyed. It's not like I went to a different network of providers for the X-rays. I walked down the hall in the same building, for crying out loud. And I watched as the intake nurses at the doctor's office typed in the pertinent information regarding my address, insurance, drug allergies and such. Why does the office down the hall not have access to the information I gave intake nurses hours before?


I would guess it's because the software used in the doctor's office doesn't play nicely with the software used in the X-ray department. And that's exactly the challenge those leading the Obama Administration's push toward electronic health records face as they determine what the framework for a nationwide system should look like.


What's more, the framework they build must enable the free flow of information between those providers to whom the patient allows access, but prevent access by those the patient wants to keep out of his information. Patient privacy is still important. Records should only be exposed to the extent necessary to improve quality of care and efficiency in the processes.


Yet, a recent Wall Street Journal piece indicates that Indian outsourcing firms are frustrated that U.S. hospitals don't feel comfortable sending electronic health records work outside the United States. For instance:

Nishant Verma, vice president at Bangalore outsourcing firm Tholons Inc., says U.S. hospitals still haven't crossed an "emotional barrier" when it comes to sending tech work overseas. "Though it is never said overtly, it is much harder for Indian suppliers to get these kinds of contracts than their American counterparts," he says.

As if there's something wrong with hospitals' reluctance to send sensitive health information overseas. There is a reason the United States has such strict requirements around health information privacy and security.


And isn't part of the point of the electronic records push to create more jobs in the United States? Sending EHR tech work overseas certainly won't do that.

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