“Are you sexually active? If so, with one partner, multiple partners or same-sex partners?” These are only a few of the questions that doctors will be forced to ask patients, says New York cardiologist Dr. Adam Budzikowski. And the type of professional service Americans may seek is of no consequence; indeed, even cardiologists will be required to ask patients about their social history and other potentially sensitive information.
“This is nasty business,” says Dr. Budzikowski. These mandated inquiries are “insensitive, stupid and very intrusive.” He added that he couldn’t think of any reason why a cardiologist or many other physicians would need such information to perform a competent examination of a patient.
While Americans often disclose sensitive information to their doctors, largely thanks to doctor-patient confidentiality, government intervention in the matter makes it completely different, critics say. “The president’s ‘reforms’ aim to turn doctors into government agents, pressuring them financially to ask questions they consider inappropriate and unnecessary, and to violate their Hippocratic Oath to keep patients’ records confidential,” writes New York Post columnist Betsy McCaughey. “Embarrassing though it may be, you confide things to a doctor you wouldn’t tell anyone else. But this is entirely different.”
Physicians who refuse to comply with the electronic health-records rules will forgo incentive payments, and effective 2015, they will be hit with financial penalties from Medicare and Medicaid; the federal government has already paid out more than $12.7 billion for these incentives.
Lack of confidentiality is of great concern to Americans who do not want their medical records documented in a system that could be so widely accessible. While proponents of electronic medical records tout the “enormous benefits” of the system, one click of the mouse can transmit every piece of information (including social history) in a patient’s health record.
Professor and nephrologist Richard Amerling says Americans’ medical records should be “a story created by you and your doctor solely for your treatment and benefit.” But the government is turning it “into an interrogation, and the data will not be confidential.”
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