We recently noted the “applause” some consumer groups are giving HIT policymakers for the proposed criteria for Stages 2 and 3 of Meaningful Use, but another prominent group has a markedly different view.
According to the Patient Privacy Rights organization(PPR), privacy safeguards are “woefully missing” from the draft regulations.
In their comment letter, PPR claims “the criteria for Meaningful Use Stage 2 and 3 are missing the key elements Americans expect from electronic systems: the ability to control who can see and use personal health information and the ability to segment information so they can selectively share information.”
The letter goes on to state that ONC’s “Health IT Policy Committee’s Privacy & Security Tiger Team has failed to make any recommendations about privacy and security for MU Stage 2”, despite the fact that groups ranging from the Federal Trade Commission to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology to administration officials themselves have all recently highlighted the importance of getting digital privacy issues right.
In perhaps the letter’s most far-reaching criticism, PPR argues that “implementing Meaningful Use criteria without simultaneously laying down a comprehensive and meaningful privacy framework for data use and exchange will lead to disaster. Requiring the use of EHRs that do not have informed consent tools and privacy protections will lead to widespread data exchange and violations of patient privacy. The MU criteria must be revised to explicitly require design for privacy at the outset.”
Toward the end of last year, the Economist magazine hosted a week-long debate over the proper balance between protecting patient privacy and moving into the HIT future. PPR’s founder, Dr. Deborah Peel, argued strongly against the motion that “any loss of privacy from digitising health care will be more than compensated for by the welfare gains from increased efficiency.”
An extensive debate ensued, with good points made on both sides, but in the end, based on a vote of readers, Dr. Peel’s arguments carried the day.
As they consider how to respond to PPR’s critique, federal policymakers may want to take note of that outcome.
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Answer: According to the CMS incentive fact sheets, a Medicare Eligible Professional (EP) "is a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, a doctor of dental surgery or dental medicine, a doctor of podiatric medicine, a doctor of optometry, or a chiropractor, who is legally authorized to practice under state law."