ACLU Recommends Privacy Protections for Successful Health IT Implementation

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Matthew Allee, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

ACLU Recommends Privacy Protections for Successful Health IT Implementation

Adoption and Participation by American Public Unlikely Without Them

WASHINGTON - As
the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions meets
today for a hearing on implementing health IT systems, the American
Civil Liberties Union cautions that failure to include privacy
safeguards would keep the American public from adopting and
participating in these systems. The full committee hearing, titled
"Investing in Health IT: A Stimulus for a Healthier America," seeks to
examine the possibility that funds for implementing health IT systems
be included in the economic stimulus package being proposed by the
incoming administration and the new Congress.

"Privacy
protections are a necessity for the American consumer to get behind the
transition to digital medical records and IT systems," said Caroline
Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "If
not, abuse will surely occur and America will enter an age of ‘medical
profiling,' where people will have difficulties getting insurance or
obtaining a job because their medical histories have been sold to the
highest bidder. The public would then have the incentive to give false
medical information to their care providers or - even worse - avoid
medical care altogether. These scenarios can and should be avoided by
Congress."

Just
yesterday, the ACLU, along with partner organizations in the Coalition
for Privacy Rights, held a news conference on Capitol Hill where they
issued a letter to Congress urging the inclusion of privacy protections
with any health IT legislation.

"There
is widespread agreement, from the ACLU to Microsoft to consumer
organizations, that health IT can and should move forward, but only
with the proper safeguards in place," added Timothy Sparapani, ACLU
Senior Legislative Counsel. "Without protections for medical privacy,
the American public will distrust health IT and choose not to
participate. It is far easier - and far less costly - for the privacy
concerns to be addressed now, during initial implementation, than doing
so down the road after a major privacy gaffe occurs."

"America does not
allow for the sale of blood or organs - nor can we allow the sale of
personal medical records, which would occur without the proper
safeguards," continued Sparapani. "There are many companies within the
healthcare arena that would pay outlandish amounts of money to have
access to our most private information - information that, if released,
could have far-reaching consequences. Bills from the House of
Representatives contain important protections, including prohibiting
the sale of medical records. The ACLU calls on Congress to ensure
privacy requirements are tied to any funding provided for the
integration of health IT systems."

To view the Coalition for Patient Privacy's letter to Congress, go to: http://www.aclu.org/privacy/medical/38319leg20090114.html

 

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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