Electronic Medical Records: Good Or Bad For Patients?

It might be nice to have your medical records available online no matter where you are in the world. So in case you get hurt or injured--a doctor in New York could look at your records if you're from say--California. But what if those records reveal medical secrets you'd rather NOT have opened--like psychiatric evaluations? This begs the question: what are the pros and cons of having electronic medical records?

Peter Swire is a law professor at Ohio State University and visiting senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Susan Pisano is vice-president at America's Health Insurance Plans--which is an association of 1,300 insurance companies. Both appeared on "Power Lunch" to discuss the issue.

Pisano favors electronic records--citing that it gives better health care and cuts down on costs for patients. She says the medical industry is working hard to keep medical records safe and making sure medical records released are only those patients want.

Swire is hardly convinced. He says there any laws to protect privacy are not being enforced. He said some 20,000 complaints(see below) have been registered and not ONE has had prosecution. He says there needs to be better enforcement and a need to build better systems to protect patient privacy. He says we're not anywhere near that yet.

FYI: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has received 23, 846 complaints about the release of private medical records (the figure Swire referred to) in three years.

President Bush--in his 2004 state of the union speech--called for an end to paper medical records. Reports say only 20% of U.S. doctors currently use electronic medical records. And a final note: 45 million Americans remain without any kind of medical coverage.