Legislative Issues Surrounding the Confidentiality of Health Records.

by Willis H. Ware

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Who and what organizations should be permitted full medical information and for what purposes? How should medical information be safeguarded and restricted to proper use? Should there be any part of health records immune to court writ? This discussion of issues involved in proposed privacy legislation considers the problem of access to health records from several viewpoints: (1) the need for citizens to be aware of the existance of health-record databanks; (2) the harm to individuals caused through unauthorized use of health records; and (3) the risks involved in allowing patients access to health records. The author suggests amending the present draft legislation to permit patients to examine medical records only when circumstances warrant, but stresses the need for an "appeal mechanism" to protect patients and a mechanism to absolve physicians of undesirable consequences issuing from the appeal process. "While much of the presently proposed privacy legislation is satisfactory for, and will cause no essential problem to, health-care-record information systems," says the author, "there are a few areas that will require special treatment under the law." 10 pp.

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