What Happened to Protecting Patients' Private Medical Records

As a nurse, I know first hand the need for substantial improvement in the use of Health Information Technology (HIT) in America's Health Care facilities, and I want to see the expanded use of health information technology, such as electronic medical records.  I know that expanded use of HIT holds great promise for facilitating better care, reducing medical errors, and eliminating burdensome paperwork.



Unfortunately, the bill the House will consider today has a glaring omission - it has no privacy protection for patients.  That means your personal, sensitive health information is vulnerable to theft or abuse. That also means there is no recourse you could take to hold individuals accountable for improperly obtaining or disclosing your most personal information.



This is a serious problem that demands action.  To address these concerns, I sponsored a privacy amendment together with my colleagues Representatives Markey, Emanuel, Doggett, and Kennedy. Despite the fact that there is bipartisan support for improving the privacy protection provisions in the bill, the amendment was killed late last night by the Republicans on the Rules Committee.  Tragically, the House won't be voting on a patient privacy protection measure today because the Republican Leadership opposes it and is afraid to lose a vote.



It is a travesty that we aren't acting to address this issue of concern for millions of Americans.   This risk is not merely theoretical:  According to the non-profit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, in just the past year and a half, more than 89 million electronic data records belonging to U.S. residents have been exposed due to security breaches.   We have the technology to make a few simple, common sense changes that will greatly reduce the risk of identity theft and discrimination based on personal medical history while still realizing the promise of this new technology.



We must act to strengthen the privacy protection provisions of this legislation in order to honor the longstanding tradition among all health care professionals that respects and protects the privacy of patients' Medical records.  I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill until we are allowed to consider legislation that actually protects our rights as patients.

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