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Electronic medical records advocates warn of corporate providers

BY Drew Buono

BOSTON In an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, two researchers, who have stated in the past they support electronic medical records, warn that the entry of such companies as Microsoft and Google into personal health records could raise new challenges to the privacy of patient records, according to published reports.

The authors, Kenneth Mandl and Isaac Kohane are physicians and researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, the primary pediatric teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School.

The arrival of these new corporate entrants, the authors write, promises to bring “a seismic change” in the control and stewardship of patient information.

As part of a push toward greater individual control of health information, Microsoft and Google have recently begun offering Web-based personal health records. The journal article’s authors describe a new “personalized, health information economy” in which consumers tell physicians, hospitals and other providers what information to send into their personal records, stored by Microsoft or Google. It is the individual who decides with whom to share that information and under what terms.

But Microsoft and Google, the authors note, are not bound by the privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the main law that regulates personal data handling and patient privacy. HIPPA did not anticipate Web-based health records systems like the ones Microsoft and Google now offer.

The authors say that consumer control of personal data under the new, unregulated Web systems could open the door to all kinds of marketing and false advertising from parties eager for valuable patient information. They suggest that HIPPA regulations be extended to the Web.

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JPMA refutes media reports about dangers of baby bottle materials

BY Jenna Duncan

MT. LAUREL, N.J. The media has been asked by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association to halt stories with claims of purported negative health effects from using baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA). JPMA claims that statements of ill health linked to items containing BPA are often misleading and frighten consumers.

According to JPMA, research has shown that when used properly, products made with BPA do not pose a health threat.

Robert Waller, Jr., the president of JPMA, said, “JPMA is extremely disappointed in the media for speculating that Health Canada’s assessment of BPA would recommend labeling the chemical a dangerous substance, when in fact the report has not even been issued yet.”

Claims in the media have stated that risk may come from the plastic shields on pacifiers, parts of baby bottles or sippy cups being broken down or chewed, and then ingested with food or saliva. Scientific findings indicate that BPA may cause estrogenic effects in laboratory animals, and so concerns about the safety of baby products, especially bottles, has been under scrutiny.

JPMA, whose mission is to educate consumers and industry professionals about juvenile products and safety, is referring consumers to its Web site, www.babybottles.org, for more information on BPA and related health findings.

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American Greetings reports fiscal 2008 profit

BY Doug Desjardins

CLEVELAND American Greetings generated $83.3 million in earnings for fiscal 2008, including $15.6 million in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 29, and more than $1.77 billion in total sales for year. Total sales were down about 1 percent from $1.79 billion the previous year, but earnings were up 96 percent from $42.4 million.

“I’m pleased we were able to achieve earnings within our forecasted range and exceed our cash flow guidance,” said American Greetings chief executive officer Zev Weiss. “Our strong cash flow allowed us to make two acquisitions in the digital photo space and repurchase shares.”

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