Although the city says that patients can opt out of the program, procedures are not yet developed for them to do so, even though the program is to begin right away, with current laboratory electronic reporting developed for other required health reporting likely to be easily adapted to add the new value. The health department presentation talks about giving patients the opt-out option when they receive their first letter from the department, which really does not touch the issue of whether they are in the patient database.
Thomas Frieden, the city health commissioner, pooh-poohs privacy concerns, saying that security protections will prevent patient information from being passed along to insurers or others.
I think this goes way too far for a non-infectious disease and an agency that does not actually have any responsibility for the patient’s care, in a country where negative health information can be extremely damaging to an individual wanting insurance or employment. Dr. Frieden, though, compares it to cancer registries or communicable disease reporting.
Quite an empire-builder, is Dr. Frieden. He would also like to track treatment status and lab test results of HIV patients city-wide.
Were I a NYC physician or patient, I’d be furious that the city was sticking its oar in in this fashion, and I’d think my rights violated. Yes, surveillance information can be of value, but given possible ramifications I absolutely wouldn’t be willing to throw information into the bucket, nor have the city contacting me about what to do.
But then, were I in NYC, I wouldn’t be asked.
If NYC were to hire negotiators, take bids, and make a deal with a test strip provider to buy large quantities of strips for residents at low cost and resell them to all NYC residents for less than diabetics could normally buy them for, I’ll wager they could save a lot more lives and the program could pay for itself, without violating anyone’s privacy.