The medical records of the U.S. population are a gold mine of information about the effect of every conceivable therapy on every conceivable ailment under almost any conceivable circumstance. Or they would be, if they were brought together. But for the most part they rest in lonely filing cabinets -- on paper, not digitized -- hoarding secrets that really could improve our health and our finances at the same time.
Starting to gather these data was one of the most demagogued proposals in the Hillary health reform package. Republicans raised the specter of Big Brother knowing your most intimate secrets. The plan's supporters emphasized the safeguards against misuse of the data -- but when you're talking safeguards, you're already on the defensive.
Until recently I would have dismissed any concern about the government's misusing your health records as farfetched. But now that we know about the current administration's adventures with the phone companies and the Internet providers, I think those ancient Republicans might have had a point. It's unfortunate, though, if we have to protect our privacy at the cost of our health. Link.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Health policy: The health care lottery
In the WaPo, Michael Kinsley laments the paucity of information about the relative effectiveness of various treatments for the same illness. To Kinsley's mind, the aggregation and study of this kind of data would be perhaps the greatest benefit of real health care reform. Snip: