Why Do We Need Electronic Medical Records? So Your Personal Data is More Readily Available to the Government
Given recent legislative and judicial decisions, there are vanishingly few electronic records that the government cannot rape at will. Increasingly, government agencies can access electronic data without even bothering with silly stuff like warrants or judicial review. Latest case in point: Electronic medical records
The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to access private prescription records of patients in Oregon without a warrant, despite a state law forbidding it from doing so. The ACLU and its Oregon affiliate are challenging this practice in a new case that raises the question of whether the Fourth Amendment allows federal law enforcement agents to obtain confidential prescription records without a judge’s prior approval. It should not.
In 2009, the Oregon legislature created the Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which tracks prescriptions for certain drugs dispensed by Oregon pharmacies, including all of the medications listed above. The program was intended to help physicians prevent drug overdoses by their patients and more easily recognize signs of drug abuse. Because the medical information revealed by these prescription records is highly sensitive, the legislature created robust privacy and security protections for the PDMP, including a requirement that law enforcement must obtain a warrant before requesting records for use in an investigation. But despite those protections, the DEA has been requesting prescription records from the PDMP using administrative subpoenas which, unlike warrants, do not involve demonstrating probable cause to a neutral judge.
While the government needs a search warrant to access paper medical records, it apparently feels it can look at electronic records without a warrant,. Which explains one reason why the Administration is so excited about the new medical records requirements in Obamacare. You didn't think HIPAA applied to the government, did you? And if you wondered why Obamacare requires doctors to ask medically-unrelated questions (e.g. on gun ownership), now you know.