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News of the Day ... In Perspective

07/31/2006

National health database near reality

On July 27, the U.S. House of Representatives, in a vote of 270-148, passed a bill that will make it easier to create a national database of patients’ medical information. It also creates a permanent position in the federal government to work on building the system.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), one of 58 cosponsors, stated that “[b]y moving from largely paper-based records to a secure system of electronic health records, we can lower costs, improve patient care, and reduce medical errors. At the same time, we need to safeguard patients’ privacy and the confidentiality of their information.”

Democrats and “at least one doctors’ organization” (AAPS) opposed the bill over privacy concerns.

“A national health information system would effectively eliminate any and all patient consent to the release of their records by placing the records online. Patients would have virtually no control over who can sneak-a-peek at their very private and sensitive medical records,” stated AAPS Executive Director Jane Orient, M.D., in opposition to the bill on Feb 6 (Journal Times 7/28/06)

A provision that would have preempted state privacy protections was apparently removed. The bill now goes to a conference committee.

Only nine Republicans opposed the bill, including Reps. Paul, Gingrey, Flake, Otter, and Duncan. Rep. Deal, who apparently facilitated the AMA secret deal related to “pay for performance” with the House Ways and Means Committee last December, did not vote, reports AAPS Public Affairs Counsel Kathryn Serkes.

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