A little more than 5 years ago, I wrote my first blog on the future of healthcare following the institution of electronic health records as a mandatory requirement for every medical practice in order to comply with the new regulations for coding of services in order to receive payments from both government entities and insurance providers. The immediate loss for patients was the previous personal interaction with their healthcare professional who was now focused on a computer for proper input of patient info rather than the patient. But, the fondest hope for all of us was that it would improve our overall experience especially when dealing with long-term issues such as cancer. However, it appears that not only are there no positive outcomes but also a whole host of negative results have evolved over the years. But, let me explain.
The next time that you are considering getting your ancestry information or trying out the new at-home DNA tests, you might want to think about what might happen if this information is sold or stolen by a third party and how it can ultimately be used against you. Barbara Jacoby
The patient’s hope was that you could supply all of your personal information to your primary care physician and that your info could then be shared with all of the other medical professionals who would be providing testing and treatment services. However, the outcome was a whole host of software programs that were sold on an individual basis to providers that were not able to talk to one another so new electronic records had to be created at each step along the way. It is so bad that even today, most pharmacies are still needing to get prescription approvals from doctors’ offices by way of facsimile machines.
So, how are all of these electronic records being used? There have been no direct benefits for the patients and based upon the info that I have gathered, the medical providers have indicated that there is no way that they can adequately record any patient’s actual situation within a list of standardized codes and that the doctor/patient experience actually has suffered as a result. But, since everyone is being forced to continue down this path, someone is benefiting and it seems to be the insurance providers from the feedback that I am receiving.
Based upon info that is being gathered, treatment is being dictated to doctors that fall within a certain set of guidelines established by the insurance providers. More and more frequently, patients are finding that certain tests and treatments that are being requested by their doctors are being denied based upon some insurance company reviewer who is not familiar with all of the specific data about the patient that has been compiled at every level over a long period of time. Therefore, doctors are spending inordinate amounts of time having to fight with the insurance companies in order to get the approvals needed for the care that they are recommending for the patient. And in many cases, such approvals are never ultimately given.
And this might not even be the worst outcome for a patient! Perhaps you might be familiar with some legislation that was proposed a year ago to force everyone to undergo genetic testing with the results being shared with your employer under the guise of being a part of their “wellness” programs. Can you begin to imagine how this info might be used against the employee and ultimately their family members in determining the future cost of insurance that you might have to pay as a result? And such info could affect a person’s long-term employment opportunities as well. After all, if you either have had cancer or are a greater risk to develop cancer in the future, you might be passed over for promotions, etc. if it is assumed that you might not be able to be on the job for a long period time if you need to undergo treatment. And if you think about it, what would preclude a potential employer in the future from including in a background check, before hiring someone, the ability to obtain health information along with the current background check of criminal records and credit ratings and even your social media activity!
So, the next time that you are considering getting your ancestry information or trying out the new at-home DNA tests, you might want to think about what might happen if this information is sold or stolen by a third party and how it can ultimately be used against you. All you have to do is note how your Facebook records have been compromised as recently revealed because of too much info sharing on your account. And even consider how hackers have been holding hospital records for ransom so that the info that they were able to get from secured sites is threatened. You just might decide that it is time for every single person to not only become an advocate for their medical treatments but also for finding the best ways to secure their medical information as well.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.