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Personal Health Web-Sites Under Way

Ever spy your manila patient folder in the doctor’s office and wonder what it contained? Part of the current computer revolution in health care enables patients to create their own electronic health record on the Internet.

Issues of privacy and security surface. “Hundreds of Web sites offer health record services, however, there are currently no standards for patients’ interests and system integrity,” says Peter Waegemann, executive director, Medical Records Institute, Newton, Mass. One of nearly 300 healthcare and computer specialists in ASTM Committee E31 on Healthcare Informatics, Waegemann is chairman of Subcommittee E31.26 on Personal (Consumer) Health Records, recently formed to develop consensus standards for Web-site personal health records. The subcommittee seeks international participation at their May 5 meeting in San Francisco; access the meeting schedule on the E31 Web page.

A major goal of the new subcommittee is to create standards that can be used globally. Waegemann brings needed consistency to their production as chairman of three far-reaching healthcare standards development bodies: new ASTM Subcommittee E31.26, the ANSI Healthcare Informatics Standards Board, and the US TAG to ISO TC 215 on Health Informatics.

“The Internet is changing health care,” Waegemann continues. “Millions of people are using the Internet for ‘second opinions’ and many are beginning to keep their health record on the Internet. Personal (consumer) health records are different from medical records. This new committee is creating standards for confidentiality/security, management, and the integration of such records.”

On March 9, Subcommittee E31.26 met at the American Pharmaceutical Health Association, Washington, D.C. At the meeting, ASTM member Ben Bluml presented solutions for protecting patient privacy based on an article he co-authored for the Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. The subcommittee agreed to develop standards that cover:

--Definition and integration of medical records and personal (consumer) health records;
--Boundaries of different health record types;
--Confidentiality and security;
--Management of personal (consumer) health records (retention, deletions, data integrity, etc.);
--Ownership of information; and
--Rights and expectations of patients, caregivers, and others.

Standards will be developed by licensed healthcare providers, Internet companies, consumers, government, and academicians in the group. For further technical information, contact C. Peter Waegemann, 567 Walnut St., P.O. Box 289, Newton, MA 02460 (617/964-3923, Ext. 227). For E31 meeting or membership information, contact manager Teresa Cendrowska, ASTM (610/832-9718). //

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