In Midst of Data Scandals, Networks Ignore Dangers of Electronic Medical Records

Three years after Obama push for monitoring health information, ABC, CBS and NBC skip privacy concerns.

Identity theft. Government corruption. Ineffective solutions and broken promises. All of these problems have stemmed from electronic storage of medical records, but the United States is still moving forward with President Obama’s initiative he set in motion years ago, July 13, 2010.

On that day, President Obama mandated that hospitals and doctor’s offices convert all their paper medical records into a government-approved and regulated electronic system under the HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) Act.

The storage of private medical information by the government is an obvious concern in the midst of administration abuse by the IRS and NSA. Add to that, the House is investigating the IRS seizure of 60 million personal medical records. Rather than draw any connection, the broadcast networks have ignored the problems for three years. Not one news story on ABC, CBS and NBC has made the connection between electronic records mandated by Obamacare and the IRS or NSA scandals. Neither have the networks warned of potential security problems coming from such recordkeeping.

This lack of concern has made some commentators, like David Catron at The American Spectator, assert, “The MSM is attempting to build a firewall between the IRS scandal and Obamacare.” Network journalists didn’t even note the danger last week when media darling and reality star Kim Kardashian was victimized. “Five medical workers have been fired over a patient data breach at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center,” after a hacking attempt, reported Reuters.

Ironically, the networks have brought up medical record abuse before. ABC and NBC have covered stories of identity theft, and privacy concerns related to the accessibility to one’s personal health information by millions of strangers.

ABC even devoted a whole segment to the topic on the “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” on Sept. 14, 2012. Correspondent Jim Avila brought up the fact that there have been “nearly 500 large scale [breaches] exposing at least 21 million records.” He also remarked on the individual security problems. “Today’s medical records are largely kept on computer, often available to not just your doctor, but to every nurse, clerk and technician in the hospital. All it takes is one to sell to the black market.”

On the “Today Show,” NBC Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen similarly warned of the dangers of keeping electronic medical records on Nov. 8, 2012. “Experts say the best way to protect yourself, don’t store anything on your computer that has your Social Security number … even medical records,” he argued. But nearly three years of stories on ABC and NBC failed to mention such problems when discussing Obama’s initiative.

The Human and Health Services’ Office for Civil Rights’ website reported 2,856 more complaints received in 2012 than in 2009 when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was made into law. The Huffington Post also reported on a study published in December of 2012 that found “94 percent of polled healthcare organizations have suffered ‘data breaches’ that exposed patient records … a 65 percent increase from 2010-2011.” That meant nearly every healthcare organization has had a data breach.

Several high-profile cases of electronic health record breaches have been exposed. A UCLA Hospital was fined after an employee sold electronic records of celebrities Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett and Maria Shriver.

Those aren’t the only problems with electronic medical records – problems completely skipped by network news reports. Besides the privacy concerns, the program is reportedly ineffective, costly, and burdensome to medical practices.

A study published in Health Affairs in 2012 revealed that EHRs will actually cost hospitals more money, which of course trickles down to patients. Additionally, the RAND Corp., which had hyped in 2005 that Obamacare would save $81 billion a year, finally admitted that its cost saving prediction was abnormally high. Even the proposed benefits of easy access, retrieval and greater accuracy have been overblown. According to a national study by Harvard study published in 2009 “The American Journal of Medicine,” electronic medical records not only resulted in “more rapid administrative cost increases” but also correlated with lower quality care in certain cases.

Not all medical professionals have said they are happy with the new regulations either. Many doctors, nurses, and other health workers have complained that the program requires burdensome, tedious electronic paperwork and takes away time doctors can spend on patients. The paperwork is not surprising considering only one of the two regulations for electronic health records in the HHS mandate alone is 864 pages long.

There are even problems with incompatible systems transferring information from hospital to hospital. Farzad Mostashari, national coordinator for health information technology at HHS, explained that problem to USA Today. “Systems don’t always talk to each other, which requires more guidance from government,” he said.