How do you convince the public that EMRs are safe?

I was going to write today's column about social media, and direct you to FierceHealthIT's new Facebook page. (If you want to become a fan, and you know you do, go here.) Well, I just did that. Also, don't forget to follow FierceHealthIT's new Twitter feed, @fiercehealthit. No more will you have to sort through non-IT tweets to find the news you want from FierceHealthIT, FierceEMR and FierceMobileHealthcare. (You're welcome.)

But then, in writing a story about EMR interoperability between the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, I came across an article in the Virginian-Pilot from Norfolk, Va., that partly got my blood boiling and partly shined more light on a serious image problem EMRs continue to have. Actually, it wasn't the article that fired me up as much as it was the comments that followed.

A sampling:

  • "The next thing you know they'll be implanting microchips under our skin and tattooing bar codes on our wrists just before they send us off to FEMA reeducation camps. They won't get me. I'm armed to the teeth and I've got a year's worth of food and water stockpiled. I'll be danged if I'll want some emergency room doc knowing my blood type or drug interactions in case of an emergency."
  • "Yes! And another great way for identity theft to soar like an eagle. Here we have the military medical profession and coming soon, the private medical profession about to put personal medical records and confidential information in electronic format about DoD personnel and VETS which are all keyed on their SSN's and birth dates where some bafoon will have them on a laptop that will get stolen out of the back seat of their car, or will leave it on a train, or it will get hacked into and someone from China or Russia and it will get sold or someone will buy a new Mercedes Benz in your name. Of course no one's head will roll and no one will be able to prove who was irresponsible with those records. You personally will be on your own to straighten it out. Thanks, but no thanks."
  • "I am not in the military. I also didn't give permission for my personal medical files to be digitized and sent to every hospital in the country. Perhaps you will be so lucky as to experience YOUR identity stolen from some idiot who sells you out. Have fun paying for that new Lexus that you 'really' don't own."

As much as I'd like to shrug off the paranoid rantings of a conspiracy nut such as the first example appears to come from, there are some valid points here. Questions about EMR security linger. Identity theft is rampant. Why should people trust that their medical records will be protected online?

EMR community, I'm sure you have some good answers for me. But I shouldn't be your audience here. You need to convince the public that their closely guarded health information will be safe in digital form.

Good luck. It seems like you will need it. - Neil