Thursday, October 18, 2007

EHR's for Sale

I wonder how Canada Health Infoway will feel about banner ads on its nation-wide Electronic Health Record?

After reading a couple of articles over the past few days (Advertising, data sales subsidize EMR products and Google Health Wants to Digitize your Medical Records), it crossed my mind that the EHR, EMR and EPR marketplace is moving way faster than our eHealth policy makers. We've seen it in other sectors, particularly in education where cash-strapped schools and school boards rent out advertising space to soft drink and confectionery companies. Already in the United States banner ads and sales of aggregated and anonymized data (if there really is such a thing any more) are seen as integral parts of the EMR/EHR business model.

There are a raft of ethical issues that must be addressed as market forces worm their way into our eHealth systems. Its one thing for big Pharma to market their products to physicians through sales reps, but what happens when the marketing happens in real time... When the drug in the banner ad is tied to the patient's diagnosis and conveniently displayed on the doctor's screen?

I'm beyond worrying about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. What worries me is that this stuff is happening without debate. Maybe the benefits of improved health care through eHealth are worth a little manipulation by big corporate interests if thats what it takes to fund an eHealth infrastructure. But can we at least think about it before it happens?

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