Independent Health Record Bank Act

Published July 1, 2007

In response to public concerns regarding health data, last year Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) introduced the Independent Health Record Bank Act of 2006, a bill that would allow individuals to compile their medical records and maintain exclusive ownership and control over them.

Ryan’s spokesperson, Kate Matus, explained that the bill, referred last summer to the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and to the Senate Finance Committee, would allow individuals to file their medical information in an “account” with an accredited Independent Health Record Bank (IHRB). At press time, the measure (S. 3454) was pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

The IHRB would be registered and regulated through the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. attorney general’s office.

Nonprofit, cooperative institutions, much like member-owned credit unions, would operate the health record banks. Account holders and their health care providers would update their records after appointments. The health record banks would manage medical information in a manner similar to the way banks manage financial data–with safeguards to protect patient confidentiality.

Private Ownership

Participants would own their medical records and retain the right to review the record’s content at will. Health care providers and research entities could access a participant’s information only with his or her consent and that of the IHRB.

Health data could be sold to a third party only with the expressed consent of the participant, and both the account holder and the IHRB would share any revenue generated from the sale.

Matus stressed the bill is not a pilot program but “legislation that enables the development of private-sector, nonprofit cooperative institutions throughout the nation.” The bill provides legal and regulatory guidelines for establishing IHRBs–effectively creating a nationwide health information network.

Lower Cost, Improved Efficiency

“Developing a secure system of electronic health records and paving the way for a nationwide health information network that uses interoperable computer technology will help reduce medical errors and lower administrative costs,” Ryan said.

“If doctors can quickly access a patient’s medical history and current medications they are taking, they’ll be better able to diagnose problems and avoid negative drug interactions,” Ryan continued. “This will help patients in Wisconsin and throughout the country. Our proposal will also help lower the cost of care, improving efficiency at the same time that it improves quality of treatment.”

Twila Brase, president of the Citizens’ Council for Health Care, a free-market group based in Minnesota, said having a lifelong medical record accessible to numerous doctors and hospital staff–even through an accredited health bank–puts caregivers in a position to become biased against an individual based on chronic health conditions or behaviors that might not bear directly on present treatment.

“Part of the problem with a lifelong electronic medical record is that if people want a fresh opinion and don’t want Doctor B to see any of what Doctor A said about them, how do you shield the parts that you don’t want Doctor B to see?” Brase asked. “We do have a right to see a doctor without any bias.”

David Salvo

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