Computer scientists at the University of Illinois have created a software tool that allows patients to easily share their health data and decide which aspects of their health record they wish to keep private. Too often, patient data stays within a hospital group or doctor’s practice, leaving new doctors ill-equipped because patients are unwilling to have their entire medical history be accessible to every doctor they see.
“Electronic health records at the moment have no facility—none—to break the record into parts. You either get the record or you don’t,” says John Halamka, a professor at Harvard Medical School, chief information officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network. Halamka hopes that giving patients control over which aspects of their health records are released to new doctors will help improve care and reduce costs, though he also admits that releasing partial information can come with its own risks. Still, “as an emergency doctor, much of the time I have to fly blind,” said Halamka. “If I get something, it’s a whole lot better than getting nothing.”