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December 21, 2010

Last night I was watching the Bears lay a shelacking  on the Vikings when an IBM commercial came on that showed a baby covered in little digital images.  Here is the link  Use “IBM Commercial Baby” for a search if the link doesn’t work.  My first reaction was, is this a threat.  This commercial seems strikingly similar to a commercial you would see promoting Skynet in the movie Terminator.  My second reaction was, there are billions of dollars being invested in healthcare technology.  The country is relying on new technologies to help control the cost and quality of health delivery.  This reliance on technology creates a whole new set of legal issues.  One issue is fraud.  There is going to be a lot of change involved with inserting more technology into healthcare delivery.  That change will be serviced by investment (public and private).  There will be competition for those investment dollars, and that’s where capitalism can turn ugly.  The other issue that comes to mind is privacy.  Is your clinician going to know everything there is to know about your mind and body, load this on the internet, and generate new revenue streams with it.  This information is incredibly valuable. 

Do you think clinicians should be able to sell your healthcare information for profit?  What if that revenue went to subsidizing your healthcare costs?

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a.k.a. the stimulus bill, a.k.a. ARRA, provided the healthcare industry with 20 billion dollars to invest in new information technology.  More specifically the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), which is part of ARRA provided these appropriations.  This enormous cash infusion into the industry is ripe with fraud.  There was an article in the WSJ yesterday that identified a strange correlation between back fusion operations performed at a Kentucky hospital with payments made to the hospital physicians by a large Twin Cities device manufacturer.  The payments to the providers were for their role in inventing a procedure that uses the very expensive parts produced by MedTronic.  Some say fraud, some say business.  Anyway you throw 20 billion into an industry you are going to have many similar situations. 

As for the privacy issues.  I work in health care privacy.  I see a lot of mistakes happen, but in 6 years have not run across any malicious acts.  HITECH gave the privacy rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) some serious teeth.  Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights are conducting much more detailed investigations of privacy related complaints, covered entities are required to notify individuals whose information was disclosed and could be harmed by that disclosure, and the penalties for privacy violations are high.  Penalties can be in the millions for covered entities that were willfully negligent. 

What do you think about healthcare privacy laws?  Do you think that your privacy trumps health delivery innovation?  Do you worry about your healthcare information being placed in the wrong hands?  What do you think could result in your information being placed in the wrong hands?

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 21, 2010 4:51 pm

    Imagine you are someone immigrating to the US and don’t speak English. On your adventure here you are nocked unconscious and fall into a coma for 20 years. You wake up and the first thing you see is this commercial. I think I would be affraid instead of excited.

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