Digital Medical Tango

How private is your medical history? I was recently visiting a friend in a local hospital and I discovered the hospital had just switched that day completely from paper medical records to digital records. They no longer will be using “paper” in their day-to-day operations. I noticed a group of doctors all standing around a computer in the hallway. I later found out that they were supposed to read the digital files on the computer in the patient’s room, but they didn’t want to because they usually read the files before they entered the room. This then lead all of the doctors crowding around the nurses’ computer in the hallway to read them before they entered the room. This incredible inadequacy of technology then created long delays for everyone.

What else will the medical switch to digital bring us? Besides the adjustment period for the medical staff, you as a patient should be concerned about the privacy of your information. One of the nurses proclaimed to me that with your medical history being digital your information will be easy to find on the net. She even stated that recently they opened up a site where you as a patient can log on and see your records and patient status. As we know from the Itsy Bitsy Spider article, any information that is put out on the net eventually we be discovered by search engines. Should we be concerned about your medical history being picked up even though it is being stated as being on a secure network?

I did have one sigh of relief when I recently went in for a check-up at my family doctor. He stated that they had just switched over to digital medical records but were transferring medical digital records the old fashioned way. They weren’t sending private records via email. This physician was burning the information to CDROM and then couriering them to other medical facilities. One of the staff members stated that they felt medical information is very private and this one step they were taking to keep it that way.

Medical facilities are finally getting on the digital bandwagon. On one hand going digital brings great convenience, however on the other hand it brings great responsibility. Let’s hope that medical facilities will take the right steps to protect patient’s rights.

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