An administrative law judge ruled Monday that the state health department may be able to start collecting medical data on Minnesota residents.
The arguments for this program are compelling. The state can track disease, monitor treatments and collect medical data from large groups of people. This can only help in giving researchers the information they need to find improved methods of treatment.
However, the judge acknowledged in his ruling that no system of safeguards will completely satisfy those concerned with privacy issues. Doctor-patient confidentiality is a bedrock value of our medical system. When you go to the doctor, you must feel confident that whatever is said or discovered is between you and the care provider. This ruling would change all of that.
The state has not guaranteed that information tied to individual patients can remain completely confidential. Medical records are one thing, names and social security numbers are quite another.
Health data collected on this level can save lives. The state must, however, ensure patients that their sensitive medical information will remain confidential.
--Owatonna People's Press
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