[ISN] Medical records to go online

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Mon Feb 27 02:10:02 EST 2006


By Michelle L. Start
mstart @ news-press.com 
February 26, 2006

Carrying a prescription that he couldn't read and trying to get it 
filled at a local CVS store, Bonita Springs resident Sean Balke said 
he looks forward to the day when medical records will be online.

"I don't get that many prescriptions, but this one is for back pain," 
said Balke, 32. "I can't read it."

Starting on April 1, the first step toward having all medical records 
accessible online will begin in Florida. 

"We'll be rolling it out over the course of the year," said Rob 
Cronin, spokesman for SureScripts, which is launching the software in 
10 states. "By the end of the year, we expect it to be statewide in 

Already 75 percent of Fort Myers pharmacies have signed up for the 
software, which has yet to go live. 

Cronin said those pharmacies include stores such as Albertsons, CVS, 
Kash 'N Karry, Publix, Walgreens and a number of independent 

It's a big first step in a move to allow patients and physicians to 
monitor and access medical records online. Federal officials hope to 
launch software for that type of records-sharing by 2013.

In this initial step, doctors will be able to file prescriptions 
through the SureScript system and pharmacists will be able to view a 
list of the patients' medications, which will provide an additional 
safety check.

Ideally, pharmacists would catch any signs of possible drug 
interactions, and emergency room doctors would be able to check which 
medications are prescribed, which officials said will be extremely 
helpful if a patient is unconscious. 

Daniel Kinsella, vice president of The Rever Group consulting firm, 
said the process of writing prescriptions and then having patients 
obtain them in a retail setting while dealing with insurance, 
co-payments and record-keeping has been ineffective and tedious.

"Physicians wrote prescriptions without knowledge of other medications 
that the patient was on, other than those that were self-reported," he 

"Pharmacy benefit and Medical Spending Account managers received and 
processed tons of paper. Patients were exposed to the inconveniences 
of delivering prescriptions to retail pharmacists, and the burden of 
tracking and reporting an array of active prescriptions to their 
physicians at time of service."

By using electronic records, patients can benefit from the 
consolidation of information about all of their medications, 
prescribed by all of their doctors and the potential for reviewing new 
prescriptions for potential drug and food reactions, he said.

Kinsella also pointed out that in the not-too-distant future, patients 
will be able to record the date and time that they take medications, 
ensuring a higher level of compliance with recommended dosage. 

"I'm not sure if it is a good thing because of privacy issues," said 
Vincent Mercogliano, 65, of Fort Myers. "If you have your records 
online, someone can find out which prescriptions you are on."

He worried that it could lead to job loss and other possible 

While officials said the online system will have tight security, some 
experts said there's no way to guarantee complete privacy regardless 
of whether it is prescription records or more detailed medical 

"We have to worry about the hackers of the world," said Pati Trites, 
chief executive officer of Augusta, Mich.-based Compliance Resources. 
"There have already been some breaches in the pharmacy system."

Her company monitors hospitals, doctors offices and other medical 
professionals to see whether they are in compliance with HIPPA laws. 

Trites said during a recent survey, only 55 percent of health care 
providers and 72 percent of insurance companies were in compliance 
with the federal privacy protection laws.

"We have to work on enforcement of tight security," she said. "The law 
is a year old. They're basically saying we're not compliant with the 

Trites said she's worried that once all medical records go online, 
patients could be exposed to some severe ramifications if those 
records become public.

"You could have job loss, insurance denials, increasing rates and 
publicity," she said. "If you have a teacher with AIDS or Hepatitis C, 
that's protected information. You can come up with all types of 
scenarios. We have to find a secure way of transmitting and housing 
that information." 

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