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Ownership of electronic health information must be addressed, article says
Date:3/24/2009

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Clarifying legal rights of patient control over electronic health records could be the key to making the best use of the huge amount of electronic medical information that the "Stimulus" funding will create in the next few years, according to a national commentary co-authored by a Wake Forest University and a Duke University faculty member.

When electronic health information is created "for each person in the United States by 2014," as is the aim of the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, or the "Stimulus"), a massive amount of medical information will suddenly exist in a new form, for which no clear "ownership" laws or regulations exist.

This information could be used for great societal benefit, such as medical research and improved patient care, but legal uncertainty about who owns the information "presents a major obstacle to integrating and using information about a single patient from various medical providers," according to a commentary that appears in the March 25 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

"This impending legal issue must be addressed very soon if we are to both protect patients' interests in their medical information and ensure that new information systems are put to their best uses," said Mark A. Hall, J.D., professor of law and of public health sciences at Wake Forest University and co-author of the commentary.

The use of electronic health records (EHRs) has been increasing in recent years but they still are employed by only a small percentage of health care providers. ARRA aims to ramp up EHR deployment exponentially, allocating about $20 billion toward the nationwide goal over the next five years.

Property rights in electronic information must be clarified in order for "effective, comprehensive and integrated medical information networks [to] emerge in the United States," the JAMA article says. With pa
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Contact: Mark Wright
mwright@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3382
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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