Consumer Debate: How will the health care industry use your private medical records?

KUSA - Your private medical information is being converted from paper to digital files that can be shared.

It's an attempt to lower America's $ 2.8 trillion a year health care costs. But should you worry about how your medical history will be used?

You willingly give your doctors personal information that they need to care for you. Your physician needs to monitor your cholesterol, body mass index, blood pressure. They also must know your family history of diseases, like diabetes and certain cancers. All that information is entered into a computer and going into cyberspace.

As the data is digitized, know that there may be a dollar value associated with your information.

"The government pays, in one form or another, about 50 percent of the $2.8 trillion dollars. Taxpayers are very much on the hook," said Tim Coan, CEO of ALN Medical Management.

The healthcare industry wants costs under control. It has a vested interest in keeping costs down. That means they have a bigger stake in making sure you don't develop a costly chronic illness.

Some are wondering how far they might go to keep costs under control.

Take a look at what's happened with technology in other places. You get ads on Facebook based on your online purchases or searches. An app on your phone might know your buying habits, your location and push ads to you. That can feel creepy to some.

Others are OK with it, if the app recommends something that's exactly what they need.

But there may come a time when your health insurance company tracks your habits to keep you healthy – in order to keep costs down.

"We know that chronic disease not only costs a lot of money, but they can destroy somebody's life," Coan said. "So everybody would agree that if we could keep someone from becoming a diabetic that would be a good thing for them. It would be a good thing for society, right?"

Is it OK for the industry to intervene?

"Is it OK to use that data to say, 'Why are you at McDonald's? I can tell from your phone that you're at McDonald's.'"

If that happened, it would would feel like an invasion of privacy. We don't know if that will happen, because we're not there yet.

"The question is going to come through this data that's being collected - and then as it begins to be amassed, like we've seen in every other industry – what can you do with it?" Coan said.

Intervention may save you from years of suffering from a chronic disease that will cost taxpayers.

Some would argue that's a choice for an individual to make. But it seems like it all comes down to money. Chronic illness is expensive.

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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