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Patient privacy bill to be heard in Augusta

5:55 PM, Apr 13, 2011   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Who should be allowed to see your medical records, besides you and your doctor? That's the issue behind a bill in the Legislature, L.D. 1337, "An Act To Ensure Patient Privacy and Control with Regard to Health Information Exchanges."

The Maine Civil Liberties Union is teaming up with privacy advocates and some medical providers to support the bill. They say it's aimed at Maine's current medical database called HealthInfo Net. That system was created in 2007-2008 by hospitals and some other medical providers as a way to share medical records, to help speed and simplify treatment when patients move from one medical provider to another.

The MCLU says about half of Maine residents have their records in the system already, because their doctors or hospitals put the records into the HealthInfo Net database. The bill in question would require patients to "opt in"-meaning their medical records could only be in the system with specific permission from the patient. Currently, providers can send the records in unless the patient specifically ops out. Supporters of the bill say it will offer protection against records being improperly used, or even hacked for identity theft.

But leaders of HealthInfo Net say they are concerned that many patients won't bother to opt in, and that the system will become useless because it will have too few records. The non-profit group that runs the medical database system says there are already many safeguards to ensure that only authorized people see medical records. They admit no database is guaranteed to be secure, but say this system had multiple encryptions that make it as secure as possible.

LD 1337 will be coming to a Legislative hearing in a few weeks.

NEWS CENTER

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