, Volume 90, Issue 2 Supplement, pp 169-178
Date: 21 Jan 2010

Protect My Privacy or Support the Common-Good? Ethical Questions About Electronic Health Information Exchanges

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Abstract

When information is transformed from what has traditionally been a paper-based format into digitized elements with meaning associated to them, new and intriguing discussions begin surrounding proper and improper uses of this codified and easily transmittable information. As these discussions continue, some health care providers, insurers, laboratories, pharmacies, and other healthcare stakeholders are creating and retroactively digitizing our medical information with the unambiguous endorsement of the federal government. Some argue that these enormous databases of medical information offer improved access to timely information, evidence-based treatments, and complete records from which to provide care. To the extent that these claims are true, it would seem that this is a valuable asset that offers immeasurable benefit to all. Others believe this digitization to be an egregious invasion of privacy. In this article, I investigate the broad research questions of whether the public good aspect of capturing private health information outweighs individual interests and whether it is ethical to mandate participation in health information exchanges by all individuals who use the U.S. health system.