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Online Medical Records: Creepy or Helpful?

Online Medical Records: Creepy or Helpful?

Medical records are supposed to be kept private, locked in a back closet of a doctor’s office where only certain peepers have access to them. But how would you feel if you made a quick phone call and within seconds all of your medical information—your visits to the dermatologist, annual mammogram and the kind of prescription drugs you use—just popped right up on the web?
 
That’s what happened when CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen made a phone call to her insurance company and gave them simple information other people might know, such as her Social Security number, date of birth and address. Within seconds she, and everyone else, could see everything there was to know about her health history.
 
Ask a doctor what he or she thinks of that and you may be surprised by the response: “Welcome to the 21st century!” That’s not to say, however, that the whole idea is not totally creepy. Think of how easy it would be for someone’s ex-spouse, an employer or Internet hacker to access your medical information.
 
But what exactly are the disadvantages, and are there any advantages? Listen up as a few experts weigh-in on the topic:
 
*The advantages: You can check up on your doctor for a change. This is not to say that doctors don’t know how to do their job, but at the same time they make mistakes, too. In that case, a tool like online records may save your life. The other good thing about online records is that they are accessible anywhere which may prove to be a lifesaver if you become ill on vacation and can’t remember the name of the medication you take or your exact diagnosis.
 
*The disadvantages: There is only one here, but it’s a major one—electronic health is risky. The details of your history may be located on a secure site and password protected, but experts say it is not 100% safe and probably never will be.
 
If you find out that your medical information is already available online and you don’t want it there, call your health insurance company and ask them to remove it. And if you wouldn’t mind having an electronic medical file, you can create your own at Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault or other web sites. You can also have your paper medical records scanned into an electronic document.

Would you want your medical records available on the web? [CNN]

Posted: 6/6/08