The federal government is paying physicians and facilities to convert all of their medical records to an electronic/digital format.  And like any federal program there’s always an “or else!”  If facilities or physicians don’t make this transition, then future Medicare payments will be reduced (there’s always an “or else” clause in any law, federal or otherwise).  A recent article in the local newspaper reported that patient medical records in systems where the hospitals and the physicians share a common network are not secure.What?  That’s right.  Your medical information and privacy are not secure if you see  a physician that shares a common computer network with a large hospital.  And this doesn’t even address the laptop with all of your medical records stolen from the health department employee’s car while they were eating lunch!

But wait a minute.  You say, “if I go to the emergency room they will know about all of my allergies and medications.”  Yes, and they will know about everything else, too….and so will any puke working at an insurance company that wants to flag you with a pre-existing condition clause so that your health insurance doesn’t have to pay for this or that.  And so may your employer.  What?  Why does that matter?  If your employer provides your insurance,  the cost of the premiums is determined by the overall health of their employees.  If you are “unhealthy” (whatever that means) you could be on the short list for the unemployment line if your employer is privy to any sort of potentially expensive medical condition you may have.  Besides, there are several private companies that can provide you with medication and allergy storage ideas/technology so the emergency room physician in a distant town knows your status even if you are unconscious.

We use paper records at our facility.  People in government have tried to get patient records from us.  We sued them.  What?  You sued the government to protect patient privacy?  Yes.  And we won.  What?  What kind of outfit is this Surgery Center of Oklahoma?  An organization that takes patient privacy seriously.  No one will ever have access to your medical records from our facility except…well…you…or someone you deem to have access.  The push for electronic medical records has nothing to do with the delivery of quality health care….it has everything to do with control.  This is one of the most frightening developments of the intervention of government into health care.  Some physicians have found that electronic records make them more efficient in their offices.  My advice….make sure that they share that information with no one.

G. Keith Smith, M.D.