Electronic Health Records and Patient Privacy, Medical Identity

Electronic Health Records and Patient Privacy, Medical Identity

electronic health record cartoon

Electronic Health Record


Yesterday, an important message titled Don’t Rush eHRs Without Addressing Medical ID Theft was posted on ModernHealthcare.com by Martin Ethridgehill, formerly a provider training specialist with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico.

Mr. Ethridgehill points out that if a patient’s electronic medical identity is stolen by someone for health insurance benefits, critical information about the patient can be imperceptibly altered, leading to accidental death in an emergency room for any number of reasons. Furthermore, he points out that even if the real patient is aware that his or her record is tainted by a false patient’s data, it is very difficult to get the comingled record cleared up.

I have also read elsewhere that HIPAA actually impedes resolution of the nightmare because the Rule also protects the privacy of the false patient – prohibiting the real patient from examining his or her own health record.

Reasons to Go Slow

Ethridgehill is particularly critical of the EHR industry which lately has downplayed the importance of patient privacy in order to sell dangerous products. He gives these reasons for the need to slow down in the rush for interoperability:

  • Adding safety and records mitigation protocols ensures patient safety as an ongoing concept and practice.
  • No industry would be allowed to operate, where the officials in charge of it stated that the market or other bodies would be responsible for creating safety procedures. Can you imagine if the auto industry stated, “We make cars, let the market figure out how to regulate safety”? I doubt that Congress or any other body would consider these people as remotely credible, yet I hear time and time again these statements being made in public and private forums by executives, lobbyists, and even so-called healthcare leaders.
  • For the public and providers to embrace a product that has no regulation, no built-in safeguards and obviously no importance to safety from the makers of these products, why would Congress expect the American public or healthcare providers to embrace a product or concept that involves the unregulated risk of injury, death, or staggering liability opportunities, let alone without any hope of remedy or proper relief?
Martin Ethridgehill
Provider Training Specialist
Blue Cross / Blue Shield, New Mexico

One of the keys to improving life for payors as well as providers and patients will be process innovation. This is accomplished by clearly documenting the existing or as is process as well as the to be of the desired process. That can only be accomplished with combined disciplines of technicians who know business process modeling (BPM), facilitators who are professionals that can interact with all levels of stakeholders in the health care service chain, and “content” experts who understand legal, medical, and workflow implications of making changes to major functions such as provider management or claims adjudication.

No World Borders has been consulting with several health care payors on process improvement, and preparation of the conversion of systems for electronic health records.

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About the Author:

Michael is Managing Partner & CEO of No World Borders, a leading health care management and IT consulting firm. He leads a team that provides Cybersecurity best practices for healthcare clients, ICD-10 Consulting, Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records. He advises legal teams as an expert witness in HIPAA Privacy and Security, medical coding and billing and usual and customary cost of care, the Affordable Care Act and benefits enrollment, white collar crime, False Claims Act, Anti-Kickback, Stark Law, Insurance Fraud, payor-provider disputes, and consults to venture capital and private equity firms on mHealth, Cloud Computing in Healthcare, and Software as a Service. He advises self-insured employers on cost of care and regulations. Arrigo was recently retained by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding a significant false claims act investigation. He has provided opinions on over $1 billion in health care claims and due diligence on over $4 billion in healthcare mergers and acquisitions. Education: UC Irvine - Economics and Computer Science, University of Southern California - Business, Stanford Medical School - Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Law School - Bioethics.
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