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Opinion: Connecticut’s new health database needs to trust consumers

The newest buzzword in health policy today is patient-centeredness. In a long overdue move away from paternalism, policymakers are learning that by treating people with respect and including them in decisions about their health care, we can avoid costly, unnecessary care and health outcomes are better.

Unfortunately Connecticut’s Access Health Analytics isn’t listening. Access Health Analytics is a planned database that will include health care diagnoses and claims for every state resident, including medical, dental, mental health care, drugs, and lab tests. The database will include social security numbers, employer, family relationships, race, disability, and names of health care providers among other sensitive data.

As a health care policy analyst, I am excited about the potential for this database to track health care use, identify problems, target resources, and evaluate solutions. Similar databases in other states have been used to find areas of health care shortage, track vaccine use, and quantify adverse drug reactions. States have used the information to create smart solutions to these problems, and evaluate if they work. This could be a very powerful tool to improve health care in our state.

But as a consumer advocate, I am very worried about protecting the privacy and security of our most sensitive information. The news is full of unintended breaches of private information. We know of at least 15 serious breaches of health care information in Connecticut affecting up to 93,500 people. Merging all health claims for every state resident across all insurers and programs magnifies the potential damage of a breach in this new database. Given the danger, Access Health Analytics should take special pains to respect our privacy and security.

Ellen Andrews is the executive director of the CT Health Policy Project.

See the complete story at CT News Junkie.

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