By: Alieta Eck, MD
Will you trust the government to keep all of your personal medical information private and are they even capable of this? With Wikileaks, a master hacker was able to bribe a disgruntled government worker to help him access millions of very sensitive documents and e-mails and send them into cyberspace for all to see. So if top-secret documents are now accessible to unauthorized viewers, what would stop this same hacker from putting all of your personal medical records out there?
In ObamaCare, the federal government is offering every physician $44,000 in taxpayer dollars to set up a new electronic medical record system. And if this is not enough of an incentive, Medicare is threatening to cut doctors’ pay in the next few years if they do not sell out their patients’ privacy. One of the specifications will be that these records be accessible online to “authorized users,” most notably the government. We are promised very strict privacy measures so that the records can never fall into the wrong hands. Oh, really?
In 1996 the federal bureaucracy unveiled the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA. By 2003, all of our patients had to sign forms certifying that they knew of the “privacy measures” used by our office. Pharmacies had to set up stand-back lines where the next patient would not overhear the sensitive discussion on how to take one’s antibiotics or high blood pressure medicines. Charts in our office were to be placed face down so passersby could not see who was visiting the doctor. We were all supposed to feel more confident that our government made rules for very good reasons.
So why does the government want to see your medical records? Might it be planning to limit your care once you reach a certain age or develop a certain level of mental deficiency? Knowledge of recent history suggests that governments can use such information to blackmail and smear those considered troublemakers or enemies of the state. Now it is offering to pay for access, but later the government could make your doctor’s license to practice medicine dependent on complying with the EMR mandate. History tells us it is not a good thing when a government has total control of physicians.
Medical students are taught to ask whether there is a gun in the house, ostensibly to use this as a way to remind parents to keep them out of the reach of children. But now this will be part of the medical record that goes online, and hackers might be able to use this information to target certain families. The possibilities are endless. Information is power– the power to do good but also the power to destroy.
Are all electronic medical records bad? No. I am a great proponent of EMRs when they are confined to my office or a hospital. They help me organize the information I need to better care for my patients.
The listing of current medicines is easy to keep up to date and I can always go back to find out why I stopped others. I can see at a glance what operations my patient had and when. I can look at the family history to be extra vigilant lest my patient be susceptible to the same illnesses. But can doctors practice good medicine with the old-fashioned paper charts? Of course they can. They just must be allowed to use what works best for them.
I took the Oath of Hippocrates which states I will keep the conversations between myself and my patient private. Accordingly, my electronic medical records will never go online. They are confined to a server right in my office and the privacy of my patients is fully protected.
Do not depend on the government to protect your medical records. Under ObamaCare, the government seeks the right to mine your most private information just as it wants to peer under your clothing in the airport. This is another important reason why ObamaCare must be repealed.
Alieta Eck, M.D. graduated from the Rutgers College of Pharmacy in NJ and the St. Louis School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. She studied Internal Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, NJ and has been in private practice with her husband, Dr. John Eck, MD in Piscataway, NJ since 1988. She has been involved in health care reform since residency and is convinced that the government is a poor provider of medical care. She testified before the Joint Economic Committee of the US Congress in 2004 about better ways to deliver health care in the United States. In 2003, she and her husband founded the Zarephath Health Center, a free clinic for the poor and uninsured that currently cares for 300-400 patients per month utilizing the donated services of volunteer physicians and nurses. Dr. Eck is a long time member of the Christian Medical Dental Association and in 2009 joined the board of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. In addition, she serves on the board of Christian Care Medi-Share, a faith based medical cost sharing Ministry. She is a member of Zarephath Christian Church and she and her husband have five children, one in medical school in NJ.