New Study: Patient Privacy Rules Hamper Adoption of Electronic Medical Records

A recent article from Computerworld reports that, according to a new study conducted by researchers from MIT and the University of Virginia, "EMR [Electronic Medical Record] adoption is often slowest in states with strong regulations for safeguarding the privacy of medical records."   According to the study, in states with "strong privacy laws", the number of hospitals using EMR systems is up to 30% lower than in states with "less stringent privacy requirements."  The study, "which looked at EMR adoption in 19 states over a 10-year period", concludes that the reason for the disparity is that "privacy rules often made it harder and more expensice for hospitals to exchange and transfer patient information, thereby reducing the value of an EMR system."  According to the article, one of the study’s authors, Catharine Tucker, stated that "[p]olicy-makers are going to have to choose how much EMR adoption they want and at what cost to patient privacy.

It is worth noting that the study’s methodology has been subject to some criticism.  According to the article, Deven McGraw, director of the health privacy project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said that "the study was based on old data and didn’t consider all of the factors that a health care organization would typically look at when deciding whether to adopt an EMR system."  Instead, according to McGraw, the study "looked at whether a state has a medical privacy law and then looked at EMR adoption in that state to draw its conclusions."  Deborah Peel, chair of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation in Austin, Texas, also criticized the studies conclusions.


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