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PR for EHRs: More to the Story Than Data Breaches

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, March 8, 2011

Data privacy and security was—as always—a hot topic at this year's HIMSS conference. Amidst the usual debates about voluntary social security identifiers and tech-talk about algorithms, one voice suggested a low-tech way of countering some of those headlines.

There will never be support for better access to electronic health data without a consumer voice to drive it—but they need motivation to speak up, says Matthew Bates, Sr. VP of Innovation at Thomson Reuters—one of the many industry folks I talked to in Orlando last month.

"The only consumer voices we're really seeing consistently right now are the ones saying 'Hey, I don't really want a giant database controlled by the feds with all my info in it,'" he says.

Stories in the media about the exchange of healthcare information are dominated by data breaches and medical errors. Those stories are tragic, he says, but they're just one side of the story. 

One way to counter that negative press is to publicize some of the positive stories about how health information data can improve care, prevent errors, and save lives, he says.

There are stories of patients and docs who have had some great experiences because of interoperability—and healthcare leaders should make sure that patient-consumers hear them, Bates says. He suggests the government sponsor public service announcements on the topic. That celebrities share testimonials. The more stories patient-consumers hear about the power of medical information to impact outcomes, he says, the more they'll demand that the information be shared.

"I think there are some heartfelt stories out there."

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