By Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.
Egypt’s crisis has raised alarms about national security and economic impact for Americans if regime change leads to an anti-US government controlling a strong ally in the Middle East. This crisis raises another more personal concern for Americans that has been overlooked by the national media: the security and availability of your electronic medical records in the event of a government-imposed “kill switch” for the Internet.
Many Americans still do not know that hidden in the February 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the “Stimulus” bill, was a provision that by 2014, physicians, hospitals, and other medical settings are to implement electronic medical records keeping systems. In 2015, penalties will be levied against physicians and health care facilities that do not implement use of electronic medical records.
The government’s plan is that medical information from physician consults and other medical visits will be sent to the Federal Health Information Technology (HIT) bureau in Washington, D.C. to provide individual medical data for the federally run Comparative Effectiveness Research coordinating panel of experts. According to a provision also hidden in the “Stimulus” bill, this panel of government-appointed experts is designated with deciding what treatment is allowed for individuals, based on government criteria for both cost and effectiveness.
Why do the events happening in Egypt raise concerns about these provisions in the 2009 Stimulus Bill? Think about it. The authoritarian government in power in Egypt quickly realized that communication via the Internet was furthering the spread of the protest movement. Without warning, the Egyptian government suddenly shut down the Internet to stop protesters’ ability to organize rallies.
Of course, protesters’ communication was not the only communication that was interrupted with this draconian “kill switch.” Financial systems, such as on-line banking, ATMs, and wire transfers, were affected, along with hundreds of other businesses that could no longer communicate with other offices around the world.
Medical communication via the Internet also came to a halt. Suppose your local doctor or hospital Emergency Room must obtain your electronic medical record via the Internet from the Health Czar’s cyberspace “cloud,” with access controlled by Washington elites.
What happens to your ability to get rapid medical treatment if you find yourself in a medical emergency that occurs in the middle of a political crisis and the government has shut down the Internet? At that point, you will appreciate first hand the true tyranny of ObamaCzarCare.
The President already has the authority under the Emergency Powers Act to do just this, so it isn’t hard to take the next step and imagine what can happen to patients if we physicians only have access via the Internet to people’s electronic records.
I prefer the old fashioned paper medical records that are available to me and my patients 24/7 – even when monsoon storms knock out electricity and the computer is out, or we are hit with a high-altitude detonation of a nuclear device that generates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) which knocks out all electronic systems, or our own government decides suddenly to implement an emergency internet “kill switch.”
Any of these scenarios could be life-threatening if you have a medical emergency and all your information is tied up in computer systems that are no longer accessible.
Paper has a purpose. Paper medical records also serve valuable functions, even in the computer and Internet age. I have grave concern about moving totally to electronic medical records as I watch the problems that occur with disruptions to Internet access – whatever the cause – and the problems that occur with breach of computer systems security to steal confidential information.
Remember the hacking of Pentagon and NASDAQ computer systems? Remember the massive Wikileaks confidential data dump on the web? How do you feel about this type of leak of your personal private medical information? David Blumenthal, M.D., the President’s former “health information czar,” acknowledged “No infrastructure exists in most areas of the country for secure health information exchange among providers and between providers and consumers.”
Medical privacy? Apparently it is more important, according to this administration’s health czars to achieve the government’s efficiency goals than to insure your personal medical information is kept between you and your physicians.
Many of us who work with patients every day are very worried about the potential for harm to patients under a system in which medical information is controlled by government-appointed central planners. Physicians need immediate access to critical information, and we also realize the sacred responsibility we have to keep our patients medical information private – both of these functions are potentially seriously harmed by government control of our health information.
Have the Obama Administration central planners really thought about the many potentially serious ramifications to having all our medical records concentrated in one place and accessible only via the Internet? Or, is that the unstated purpose of our new “ObamaCzarCare:” government-controlled health services and control of medical information?
By limiting your freedom to get the care you need, when you need it, and with whom you choose…and by infringing on your medical privacy, the government has ever-increasing control of your life.
Americans face many dangers that lie in government control of electronic medical records coupled with government control of access to communication via the Internet.
Just thinking about a government-controlled kill switch can make you ill.
©Elizabeth Lee Vliet, M.D.
DISCLAIMER: Dr. Vliet speaks as an independent physician, not as an official spokesperson for any organization. Dr. Vliet has no financial ties to any health care system, pharmaceutical company, or health insurance plan. Her allegiance and advocacy is to and for patients.