The New York Times reports on the issue of data mining electronic medical records and the privacy issues that can arise:
Over the past decade, nudged by new federal regulations, hospitals and medical offices around the country have been converting scribbled doctors’ notes to electronic records. Although the chief goal has been to improve efficiency and cut costs, a disappointing report published last week by the RAND Corp. found that electronic health records actually may be raising the nation’s medical bills.
But the report neglected one powerful incentive for the switch to electronic records: the resulting databases of clinical information are gold mines for medical research. The monitoring and analysis of electronic medical records, some scientists say, have the potential to make every patient a participant in a vast, ongoing clinical trial, pinpointing treatments and side effects that would be hard to discern from anecdotal case reports or expensive clinical trials. […]
But the challenges posed by this sort of research are significant. The information entered into a medical record may be wrong, and diagnostic codes are notoriously unreliable, according to [Nicholas Tatonetti, assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Columbia,] partly because they are also used for billing. And doctors don’t think like researchers. […] Read more »