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Health, Science & Tech

E-Medical Records: Personalized Medicine vs Confidentiality

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Personalizing medicine is the goal of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s (UPMC) five-year, $100 million investment to create an electronic database of medical information.  The technology uses analytic and predictive modeling applications designed to improve patient outcomes, research capabilities, and improvements within UPMC.

The goal is to improve the quality and lower the cost of medical care.  However, keeping an electronic warehouse of medical data poses some questions about confidentiality and insurers taking advantage of the risk analysis component.

Critics of the system argue that medical confidentiality will be compromised with e-records. Dr. Steven Shapiro, Chief Medical and Scientific Officer at UPMC said medical information would be more protected with an electronic database than it is with the current paper method.

“All the confidentiality that one has currently will in fact be enhanced electronically because there isn’t the possibility of paper leaving,” Shapiro said.

If insurance companies have access to the medical information, the provider could potentially refuse coverage for an individual the system shows is at risk for a certain illness.  Shapiro says the ongoing debate is what information can and cannot be released.

“Most of what we’re going to be using will be de-identified data so that we will just be able to put together constellations of data from large numbers of patients to look for patterns to find the best care model,” Shapiro said.  “Individual patients will have the opportunity, when they have their genome individualized, to acquire that data themselves and use that as they want.” 

Shapiro said the system will be clinically useful within the year, and predicts with time, it will play a more significant role in medical care as more is learned about individual genomes.  "This comprehensive analytics approach will enable us to treat each patient in a personalized way to produce the best possible results."  He called the system a “technological foundation." 

“Now that all of the patient information is being captured electronically on the electronic medical record, this is our opportunity to turn that information to true intelligence and to really be able to mine that data to improve the care of our patients.”