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MedicalProgressToday is a web magazine devoted to chronicling how market-friendly public policies drive life-saving medical innovations and make health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

 

Recent Second Opinion:

Post-Election Predictions for Obamacare
November 11, 2010

Improving the FDA's REMS Program
August 05, 2010

Are Foreign Clinical Drug Trials Safe?
July 08, 2010

FDA's Bad Ad Program
June 03, 2010

Obesity and Public Health
May 05, 2010

The Route to Reconciliation
March 05, 2010

Conflict of Interest
January 28, 2010

Analyzing the Healthcare Bills
November 18, 2009

President Obama's Plan for Reform
August 24, 2009

The Healthcare Reform Debate
July 23, 2009

Priorities for the New FDA Commissioner
December 19, 2008

PhRMA's New Marketing Code
August 28, 2008

Personal Genetics Testing
July 29, 2008

Where health care policy experts have their say
June 13, 2008

Sources of Medical Research Funding
April 24, 2008

Off-Labeling Marketing
March 17, 2008

Second Opinion:
Where health care policy experts have their say

June 13, 2008: Electronic Medical Records

New technologies that enable individuals to manage their medical records online have drawn widespread attention from both the medical community and policymakers. The new services, which give individuals the option of sharing their records with doctors and other providers, have been widely acclaimed as an innovation that will both help patients to become better educated health care consumers and reduce medical errors by health care providers. Skeptics, however, remain concerned about the privacy and security risks inherent in keeping personal records online and argue that the risks will limit use of the services.

We sent the following news story, Google offers online medical records service (San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20/08), to leading health care scholars and asked them whether the potential risks are worth the benefits provided by this new technology.

This edition of our expert panel includes:

  • John Engler is the President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. He served as the Governor of Michigan from 1991 until 2003. (Read Engler's Second Opinion.)
  • Edward W. Felten, PhD, is a Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University and is the founding Director of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy. His popular blog, freedom-to-tinker.com, is widely read for its commentary on technology, law, and policy. (Read Felten's Second Opinion.)
  • Jim Frogue is the chief liaison to state policy projects at the Center for Health Transformation. He has served three Members of Congress, most recently as Legislative Director for Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas. He previously spent two years as the health care policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation. (Read Frogue's Second Opinion.)
  • William Winkenwerder, Jr., MD, is Chairman of the The Winkenwerder Company LLC and a Senior Advisor to Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Previously, Winkenwerder served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense from September 2001 until April 2007. (Read Winkenwerder's Second Opinion.)

"The consumer has not traditionally been the center from which health reform efforts are focused and health information has not traditionally been accessible to consumers, yet this information is critical—particularly when it comes to improving overall wellness.

Microsoft's HealthVault platform provides consumers with access to hundreds of health related services and devices - from personal health records to blood pressure monitors. Patients finally have a way to manage their health and health information (collecting, storing and sharing information) and treating health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure in real time is possible.

With regard to consumer demand, a Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive Health care poll conducted last November revealed that 91% of survey respondents want access to their own electronic medical record (EMR) and 60% indicated that the benefits of EMR's outweigh the privacy risks. Additionally, Microsoft has helped to alleviate consumer privacy concerns with their strict privacy protections combined with putting the consumer in the driver seat—allowing consumers to update records and permit access by others."

John Engler is the President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers. He served as the Governor of Michigan from 1991 until 2003.

* * *

"Like it or not, health records are going to move online: the value of having records available to authorized providers anytime and anywhere will outweigh the very real privacy issues. If you have to pick somebody to store your records—and you probably will—you could do much worse than Google or Microsoft.

Both companies have the resources and know-how to protect your data, and both have enormous incentives to be seen as responsible stewards of private information. The weak link in the security chain won't be Google or Microsoft, it will be you or your doctor."

Edward W. Felten, PhD, is a Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University and is the founding Director of Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy. His popular blog, freedom-to-tinker.com, is widely read for its commentary on technology, law, and policy.

* * *

"The work of Microsoft and Google around on-line personal health records is very promising. It is encouraging to see these and other industry leaders like Availity take a prominent role particularly in the absence of decisive leadership from Washington.

Privacy concerns are very legitimate. Leaked personal health data is far more embarrassing and potentially damaging than say credit information. The move toward on-line record-keeping will happen. But it will be a long-term migration that will accelerate as more patients feel comfortable with the efficiency, access, and privacy. Patients should and will determine that pace."

Jim Frogue is the chief liaison to state policy projects at the Center for Health Transformation. He has served three Members of Congress, most recently as Legislative Director for Congresswoman Kay Granger of Texas. He previously spent two years as the health care policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

* * *

"There is a tremendous opportunity for online personal health records (PHRs) to improve healthcare in the United States. Innovations in medical information technology initially focused on electronic medical record systems for physicians and other medical professionals in healthcare settings. However, in the past few years spurred by the American Health Information Community (AHIC), a public-private partnership to advance health information technology, large companies have leaped forward to develop solutions for consumers, not just medical professionals.

Successes of the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and Kaiser Permanente, have shown that providers and consumers can be connected via technology to appropriately move medical information between parties to streamline care and improve access. I recall a conversation three years ago with Bill Gates and Microsoft leaders about what we had accomplished in the Military Health System. Not surprising soon afterward Microsoft was making a major investment in PHRs with plans to be a market leader.

Are there privacy risks with PHRs? Yes, but they are manageable. Further, they are far outweighed by the benefits in cost and quality and the sheer desire of most people to have more control over their health records and the way they receive care. Within 10 years most Americans will have their own online personal health record and it will be an indispensible part of their care."

William Winkenwerder, Jr., MD, is Chairman of the The Winkenwerder Company LLC and a Senior Advisor to Deloitte Consulting and Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Previously, Winkenwerder served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense from September 2001 until April 2007.




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