Do Electronic Medical Records Put You at Risk for Identity Theft?

Learn the pros and cons and your risk for identity theft

It's important to protect yourself against identity theft at all times. Right now, you have control over your personal information and to what extent it's available online. This is crucial when it comes to avoiding identity theft. But what if electronic medical records become a reality? What then?

There are many pros and cons surrounding the electronic medical records debate. Learn what they are and what your next step should be.

Electronic Medical Record Pros

Email Option - Some areas offer the option of email instead of doctor visits. Of course, this doesn't work for visits that require a diagnosis but is effective when all you need is a quick answer or request a prescription refill. This option is a big time saver.

Health Record Sharing - When parents become elderly, electronic medical records siblings that share in caretaking can now also share in information about the aging parent. This would let one sibling see the results of mom's latest tests even though they don't live in the same city.

Fast Access - Lab results are available for immediate download as soon as they become available. No more waiting until the doctor has time to talk to you.

X-ray Sharing - IT companies like Cisco are in the process of designing systems that make it possible to store and retrieve a lifetime's worth of x-rays and MRIs. No more extra trips for you, your doctor can go online and view your x-rays.

Automatic Safety Check - With electronic prescription systems, you'll know right away if your prescriptions could have a dangerous interaction.

Electronic Medical Record Cons

Admittedly, there are many good points about electronic medical records. Unfortunately, there's a downside too.

Lack of Confidentiality - To treat you effectively, your doctor needs to know everything about you - drug use, sexual history, number of sex partners, mental health history, abortions, etc. Information like this is essential for proper treatment. But what happens when this information is leaked out? What if the information gets into the wrong hands? Damage to reputations and relationships could suffer irreparable damage.

Identity Theft Concerns - Identity thieves make a career out of stealing personal information. How easy will it be for thieves to steal your personal information once medical records go electronic? How difficult will it be for you to avoid identity theft?

Inadequate Government Protection - The current rules the government has in place to protect patient privacy simply don't work. Leaks of personal information are inevitable. The American government doesn't have a good track record when it comes to protecting privacy.

Lack of Informed Consent - With medical records being available in a central location, who's to say researchers won't use your medical records for medical studies you would rather not participate in?

In all issues, there's good and bad. If electronic medical records worry you, speak to your congressional representative about this issue and your concerns about privacy and identity theft. Voice your concerns and help set the standards for regulating electronic medical record system.

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