Biden Touts Computerized Health Records, But Critics Have Privacy Concerns

By Fred Lucas | May 4, 2010 | 4:36 PM EDT

Vice President Joe Biden. (AP photo)

Washington ( – Vice President Joe Biden, touting the importance of electronic health records, on Tuesday announced $220 million in grants for 15 communities to pave the way for wide-scale use of health information technology. 

But some Americans fear that so much personal information being shared via computer networks could violate privacy.

“These pioneering communities are going to lead the way in bringing smarter, lower-cost health care to all Americans through use of electronic health records," Biden said of the 15 pilot communities. "Because of their early efforts, doctors across the country will one day be able to coordinate patient care with the stroke of a key or pull up life-saving health information instantly in an emergency – and for the residents of these communities, that future is about to become a reality.”

Biden said health information technology is not only advancing the delivery of health care, it also is "building a whole new industry along with it."

“What does health information technology do for the average American?” the vice president asked rhetorically. “Instead of every doctor asking to see your medical history and filling out forms on your medical history, prescriptions and allergies, your doctor will be studying your medical history when you arrive.” 

In life or death situations, emergency room doctors will know if a patients has as irregular heartbeat, for example." “This is a big deal,” he added. 

The $787-billion economic stimulus legislation passed in early 2009 set aside $30 billion to promote computerized medical histories for individuals. The $1 trillion health care overhaul enacted in March requires individuals to have government-approved health insurance, and those government-approved plans must meet certain efficiency standards, including the use of electronic health records. 

“This is going to create jobs with an average salary of $70,000 per year,” Biden said. “This is a field that is not fading. It is expanding.” 

Privacy concerns
Under the government policies, patients will not be able to opt out of having an electronic health record, said Sue Blevins, president of the Institute for Health Freedom.
“Electronic records make it easier to share without consent,” Blevins told “We are not taking a position for or against electronic health records, but we want the market to decide. The government should not be pushing the system forward.”
Blevins recounted the story of a North Carolina man who did not want an electronic health record because his electronic financial information had been hacked. But, Blevins said, his doctor told him the insurance company required an EHR.
“An average man went up the chain of command and got his health insurance company to agree not to require him to have an E.H.R.,” Blevins said. “A free market empowers people to say what they want. This new health care mandate gives insurance companies the power they would never have in a free market.”
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that EHRs will reduce costs by 0.3 percent from 2011 to 2019.

The 15 "Beacon" communities selected to receive grant money to show that the "exchange of health information is both feasible and improves care delivery and health outcomes" include the following: Tulsa, Okla.; Stoneville, Miss.; Brewer, Maine; Danville, Pa.; Salt Lake City, Utah;  Indianapolis, Ind.; Spokane, Wash.; New Orleans, La.; Rochester, Minn.; Providence, R.I.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Concord, N.C.; San Diego, Calif.;  Hilo, Hawaii; and Buffalo, N.Y.