By: Dr. Bharani Padmanabhan – April, 2016
John Ehrlichman authorized breaking into Dr. Fielding’s office on September 3rd, 1971, to steal Daniel Ellsberg’s medical chart. In those days, medical charts were confidential and access strictly controlled. Any break-in was physical and impossible to miss. Even if the government did steal your private chart, at least you knew about it.
Which is why Nixon’s lawyer, Egil Krogh, went to prison for 4 months for violating Dr. Fielding’s Fourth Amendment right.
One of the many lessons the government learned was that stealing medical charts needed to get easier. This eventually culminated in Executive Order 13335 (69 FR 24059) which ordered that all Americans must have their medical charts in electronic form.
There never was a public democratic debate or a single public vote on something that is incredibly private and affects every single American.
Doctors, who are mostly of the spineless compliant variety, were paid from the Treasury to buy electronic chart software, called EHR now, from private vendors when the VA system had good software available for free.
Doctors who refused to spinelessly comply with the government now are punished by having their Medicare payments cut. So they see Medicare patients and give proper care but their payments are cut significantly because they refuse to make their patients’ medical charts easily accessible to the government.
When the government wants to steal the chart of a patient who goes to a doctor who refuses to put patients’ charts online, the government still has to physically break into the office. This costs money, for which the doctor is now dinged.
Even good doctors within the government who protected patient privacy have been forced to suddenly retire so they are no longer “in the way.”
Naturally, in the great Glomar tradition, a cover story has been put out to explain why Americans’ private medical charts must all be online where they can be stolen without the doctor or the patient knowing about it: EHR is good for you! It can save money! It can save lives!
Glomar is such a famous case; there is even case law now called the Glomar response. When people start digging into the underpinnings of Executive Order 13335 they should expect a few Glomar responses coming their way.
As expected, both doctors and patients have already figured out that EHRs impede good medical care. Doctors are angry about being turned into data entry operators. Patients are mad about doctors staring at a computer and tapping away instead of being a physician.
There isn’t a single EHR system out there that actually supports improved medical care. The most spectacular failure was the epic EHR at Texas Health that even missed an Ebola case, which would NOT have been missed with the old paper chart.
This is easy to understand once you know improved medical care was never the point. It was just the Glomar cover story.
Sometime in early 2015, Attorney General Maura Healey stole the private prescription data for about 50 patients of mine. As it was all electronic, neither my patients nor I even knew about this theft.
I found out only after Maura Healey falsely accused me of Medicaid fraud. If she had not, I would never have known about her theft.
If Maura Healey could so easily swipe the private prescription records of my patients, surely it is something she is comfortable doing, routinely, without any fear of ending up in prison like Egil Krogh.
This fact, dear Americans, proves the supreme utility of EHRs for the government. It keeps government officials out of prison for violating your most private records. That is the true function of EHRs, when you strip away the whole Glomar cover story.
In fact Maura Healey has been so emboldened by the new way that she actually hosted a seminar on Data Privacy posing as the savior of the people, as the leader of “the People’s Law Firm.” If John Ehrlichman were still alive he would be green with envy.
But wait, you say, the elites of this country surely go to doctors too. Yes indeed, to doctors who ensure their private personal medical charts never ever touch the internet.
If you want your medical records to remain safe and out of the government’s hands, go to a doctor who chooses to remain “air-gapped” on behalf of the patients even when the government punishes it with a hefty fine. That doctor is truly for you.
Bharani Padmanabhan MD PhD is a neurologist who specializes in multiple sclerosis in the Boston area. firstname.lastname@example.org