EMR gets slammed quite often as a potential privacy pitfall, but patient privacy-protected information is often unfortunately leaked whether the information is in an electronic record or not. The story behind a major news story involving an NFL coach, broken today, demonstrates how, despite all the talk about electronic medical records as a privacy concern, there is just as much privacy danger from those old fashioned sources as well.
Word of mouth of healthcare providers can be just as effective in leaking details of a patient's conditions, despite privacy concerns. Celebrities are often the victim of an anonymous nurse or lab technician handling HIPPA-protected information in an unprofessional manner.
Chuck Pagano, coach of the Indianapolis Colts was diagnosed with a treatable form of leukemia that will keep him off the sideline of his NFL team for a few months, according to media reports. He is a popular coach and there are hopes for a fast recovery.
What we find interesting about the story, coming from a healthcare IT viewpoint, is that the reporter Bob Kravitz, the reporter at the Indianapolis Star who broke the story, obtained the information through a privacy violation that had nothing to do with computers. He told ESPN radio that he obtained the story when he went to buy a new car. The salesman told him about it, saying he heard it from a friend who knew someone who treated him at the hospital.
Privacy is one of the concerns for EMR systems, but it is a broader issue that has many aspects to address. Reports of violations, such as lost laptops or inappropriate access of records are commonly reported. Most hospitals, likely aware of extant potential for privacy violations with or without EMR, have not allowed concerns to reduce their enthusiasm for paperless medicine. EMR systems continue to be expanded at major US healthcare systems. . EMR 2012 details the market for these systems and the reasons behind this growth.