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California’s imminent electronic medical records raise hope, privacy concerns




Clinic office assistant Joan Vest searches for a patient's missing medical file at the Spanish Peaks Family Clinic on August 5, 2009 in Walsenburg, Colorado.
Clinic office assistant Joan Vest searches for a patient's missing medical file at the Spanish Peaks Family Clinic on August 5, 2009 in Walsenburg, Colorado.
John Moore/Getty Images

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This system, called Cal Index, will electronically document the complete medical histories of nearly 1 in 4 Californians beginning by the end of the year thanks to a partnership between two of California’s largest insurers, Blue Shield and Anthem Blue Cross.

Cal Index would be the biggest health information network anywhere in the country and proponents of it say the access to real-time information will make for faster and better healthcare that will improve its quality and cost.

But some opponents worry about the potential for data breaches, like Anthem’s last year, which accidentally posted online Social Security or tax identification numbers for nearly 25,000 California doctors online. Moreover, some Californians, including victims of domestic violence or people suffering from rare diseases, just don’t like the idea of their medical information being that readily available.

There are also concerns about the nuts and bolts of a roll-out. For more than a decade, the California healthcare industry has been trying unsuccessfully to replace paper records with electronic ones.  Advocates of the Index hope the difference this time will be the muscle from such major insurers.

Do you welcome the move to electronic records? Do you worry about the potential for a data breach? Or the potential liability for insurers or health care providers?

Guests:

David Feinberg, chief executive of UCLA Health System and the new chairman of Cal Index's board of directors

Pam Dixon, executive director of the the World Privacy Forum, a San Diego non-profit public interest research center focusing on areas of technology and privacy