Viewpoint: Patients, not health systems, should control medical records

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In a recent New York Times op-ed, Kathryn Haun and Eric J. Topol, MD, argue that healthcare consumers should control their own medical records.

Ms. Haun (a federal prosecutor and cybercrime instructor at California-based Stanford Law School) and Dr. Topol (a professor at La Jolla, Calif.-based Scripps Research Institute) assert that there is a paradox in patient health data: "Most of us still cannot readily look at it, but there's been an epidemic of cybercriminals and thieves hacking and stealing this most personal information," they write.

Ms. Haun and Dr. Topol say medical records are a common target for cybercriminals, not only because of valuable patient data, but also because these records are stored in a centralized database, often without encryption. To solve this issue, the authors suggest that rather than storing medical records in centralized hospital databases, patients should own and manage their own data.

With this system, records would be disaggregated, so that individuals or families would save their medical data through a personal cloud or blockchain. Patients would then be able to share their data with physicians, researchers or other family members as needed.

"Patients should be the owners of their own medical data," the authors conclude. "It's an entitlement and civil right that should be recognized."

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