Computers and Medicine

October 27, 2000 • Volume 10, Issue 37
Can consumers' health records be kept private?
By Adriel Bettelheim

Introduction

Computers are being used increasingly by doctors to scan databases containing accounts of past cases to see which treatments work best. Computers are being used increasingly by doctors to scan databases containing accounts of past cases to see which treatments work best.

Over the past five years, health-care providers, insurers, drug companies and research institutions have initiated a massive transformation from a paper-based health-care system to one that increasingly relies on computers and the Internet. In addition, patients can download information from medical Web sites and fill prescriptions on-line. But experts say that the large-scale collection of patient information in cyberspace raises questions about access to the data. The privacy concerns are at the center of a broader debate over regulating the Internet. Many politicians, consumer groups and regulators are calling for new security standards and guidelines for proper conduct in cyberspace. Meanwhile, the federal government this fall is expected to release guidelines on access to medical databases.

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