Discuss: how privacy has been protected over time; how medical records are kept private; how electronic medical records will be secured?
Has the concept of privacy evolved significantly enough to adapt to the new informational and security realities? We continue to value it as one of the milestones of the individual autonomy and freedom. But is the right to privacy guaranteed to us given that the word ‘privacy’ does not even appear in the U.S. Constitution? In my opinion, the unfortunate legal uncertainty continues to shape the debate on the protection of the right to privacy in our society. I understand this notion, first and foremost, as the right to “being let alone”. We should expect and demand an adequate legal protection of this right. Unfortunately, the guarantees have remained mostly fluid and contextual.
We experience this fluidity and continuous adjustments to the material substance of privacy rights whenever technology is involved. Can we be sure that our transactional histories are protected? Do we know where to put the limit on video surveillance in the workplace? Sadly, these are rhetorical questions, as the enhanced use of electronic means has led to challenges in privacy protection in many areas.
When we think of typical issues related to the privacy protection, we often end up discussing the use of electronic medical records. We can expect some legal tools put in place to ensure the patient’s rights. First of all, everyone is entitled to the right to get a notice about how one’s health information is used and shared. The patient can also file a complaint regarding the use electronic medical record in an abusive way.
Besides the formal legal protection from the breach of privacy, we should also insist on security guarantees and safety measures. Do health care providers provide essential safeguards to protect our medical records? In my view, they have to give due regard to setting up smart passwords and PIN numbers. Likewise, providers must put in place encrypting mechanisms to ensure that only someone with particular intelligence to “decrypt” records by an electronic key can access them. Finally, we should insist on the possibility of keeping the record of users who have accessed the data and the details with regard to any amendments that they have made to our medical data.