Next Things First

Electronic Medical Records: Some Insightful Journalism by charlottegee
February 8, 2009, 1:56 pm
Filed under: electronic medical records | Tags:

Even if politicans don’t seem to get it, at least CNN shows a thoughtful mastery of the issues (insert sarcastic emoticon here) …

From CNN’s Campbell Brown, Feb. 6, 2009:

President Obama wants to modernize your medical records. It’s part of his stimulus plan. Up next, this influx of technology could lead to an invasion of your privacy. We’re going to show you how.

And then later, the mother of this California octuplets says she’s being singled out. You won’t believe what else she says when we come back.


BROWN: President Obama’s economic stimulus plan includes $20 billion to improve health care technology.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This plan will put people to work, modernizing our health care system. That doesn’t just save us billions of dollars, it saves countless lives.


BROWN: The plan is for every American to have his or her own electronic medical record in the next five years. No more of those paper folders your doctor probably uses right now. And it sounds like a great idea, but there could be a pretty disturbing downside and senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here to explain exactly what that downside is.

And Elizabeth, first, I mean, talk us through why the big push to make our medical records electronic and then the privacy concerns because, in fact, you’ve uncovered some real holes here.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, yes, and gaping holes that actually had to do with my records which made it especially scary. But here’s the argument.

Basically people are saying, come on, doctors, you got to move into the 21st century. I mean, who uses paper records anymore. Well, most doctors do. It’s hugely inefficient and also using paper records instead of digital records can lead to medical mistakes that can kill you.

So, President Obama says, look, we’re going to do electronic medical records but I’m going to appoint a chief privacy officer and have all sorts of safeguards to make sure that only the people who are supposed to look at your records are looking at your records. And so, some folks are saying, that sounds good, but really will there be enough safeguards to keep these records private?

BROWN: And Elizabeth, you mentioned your own records. I know you are on your health insurance company’s Web site and you discovered something pretty shocking.

COHEN: Right. I was just on this Web site looking around and I thought all of a sudden I was like oh, my goodness. This is a list of every doctor’s appointment I have had in the past 18 months plus, all the doctor’s appointments and lab tests for my husband and for my four children. I had no idea they were there, but here they are.

These are actually my medical records that I stumbled on to, online. For example, right there, that’s my annual mammogram that I had. Then there was my daughter’s pediatrician’s appointments. All of them.

Then there was my billing for my cholesterol test that I had at my annual physical. And Campbell, the really scary thing here is that if I had seen a psychiatrist during this period of time, it would have been on there, too. Right there online, every time I saw him and his name.

BROWN: And just to clarify, I mean, you were on their Web site. You did not like you didn’t log in with your password or anything. You were just playing around and it was quite easy to find pretty much everything there ever was to know about you.

COHEN: Right. All I needed was my Social Security number and my date of birth. You know how many people have access to your Social Security number and your date of birth?

BROWN: This is amazing to me. I mean, really amazing. And because of that, and we’ve all been talking about it, we want to try a little experiment here. And Gary Tuchman and I gave you some of our personal information and we’re going to see how much you can actually dig up on us, and then we’re going to come back and see what you found.

COHEN: I will accept the challenge.

BROWN: All right. Gary, is that OK with you? Is he with us, too?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As long as she doesn’t embarrass me. And Elizabeth, I know where to find you if you embarrass me.

COHEN: He certainly does.

BROWN: All right, Gary. Stand by. We’ll be back with Elizabeth’s results a little bit later in the show.


We should mention again Elizabeth Cohen has been hard at work at her computer to see how many of Gary Tuchman’s computerized medical record she found in minutes, when we come back.


BROWN: Tonight in our “Bull’s-Eye,” we zero in on your medical records to find out just how secure they are or aren’t and frankly, this news is not very reassuring. Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been doing a little experiment for us trying to hack into my medical records as well as Gary Tuchman’s. And we’re going to see how far you’ve gotten here. What did you find?

COHEN: Well, Campbell, I couldn’t get into yours because it turns out you went on the Web site —


COHEN: Yes, and you set up some safeguards. But Gary, I just have one thing to say to you.

Isn’t Jodi Greenwald (ph) a great pediatrician? Don’t you just love her? Isn’t she terrific? I got the goods.

TUCHMAN: But you know that’s my children’s pediatrician.

COHEN: I do know. I do know because I got them all right here, Gary. I got all your insurance claims for the past 18 months for you and your entire family. And all you gave me was your date of birth and your Social Security number. That was it.

TUCHMAN: Well, first of all, she’s a great pediatrician. I bet you she didn’t know she’d get national attention today. But that’s very concerning. I mean, I got to put on a somber face because it’s great that you did that, Elizabeth, but it concerns me that someone else could do it pretty easily.

BROWN: So, you, Gary, you need to go online and log in and do a little password thing, right?

COHEN: Right, right. Do what you did.

BROWN: I mean that’s all it takes to protect.

COHEN: Right. You’re right. Exactly, you take steps, right. They ask the question, privacy question, stuff like that.

BROWN: Look, this is a longer conversation, but this is a huge problem that’s got to be addressed.

COHEN: Actually, it is a huge problem and that’s what President Obama hopes to address in the stimulus plan.

BROWN: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, interesting experiment. Thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

BROWN: Elizabeth, Gary, thanks for playing along.


Posted by CharlotteGee


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[…] of the issues (insert sarcastic emoticon here) … From CNN’s Campbell Brown, Feb. 6, 2009″ Article CharlotteGee, Next Things First, 8 Febraury […]

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