HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Medical Data Network Would Improve Care, Create Privacy Issues

An interesting New York Times article (free registration required) reports on advances in medical data networks.  The issue was addressed last week by a panel of experts, during a conference hosted by Rockefeller University. 

According to the article, approximately 31 percent of the nation’s annual health care bill is attributable to administrative expenses.  The implementation of a sophisticated data network would reduce both costs and the number of patient deaths caused by medical errors (it is estimated that 45,000 to 98,000 people die each year from medical errors attributed to misunderstood handwritten prescriptions and hospital charts or lost laboratory test results). 

In addition to administrative and patient-safety benefits, a comprehensive database could provide the ability to assemble and distribute up-to-the-minute epidemiological studies.  Of course, a network packed with so much patient information is sure to raise plenty of privacy concerns. The proposed data network is part of a 10-year plan being promoted by the National Institutes of Heath.

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