Health care information and the protection of personal privacy: ethical and legal considerations

Ann Intern Med. 1997 Oct 15;127(8 Pt 2):683-90. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-127-8_part_2-199710151-00050.


During the early 1990s, the U.S. government addressed the issue of providing universal health care to all its citizens. Although this issue has not been completely resolved, centralization of electronic data and sharing of health care information among insurers and providers have been pursued. The emergence of electronic data banks in health care has raised another issue: each citizen's right to privacy compared with the collective benefit to society when critical data on quality assurance and scientific research are shared by an array of network users. The choices we face are difficult, and the solution may necessarily reflect a compromise that alters traditional beliefs in the right to personal privacy. However, Congress can take the initiative by enacting statutes to ensure that sensitive information contained in electronic patient records is not divulged without a patient's consent and is protected against fraudulent access and abuse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Security / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Data Collection / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Data Collection / methods
  • Databases, Factual / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Disclosure
  • Ethics, Institutional*
  • Federal Government
  • Government Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Privacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Social Values
  • United States