The allocation of $19 billion by the US Congress to promote the adoption of electronic medical records makes feasible the collection of aggregate patient data that could vastly improve patient safety, public health monitoring, and medical knowledge. The US Food and Drug Administration could ascertain the percentage of patients who experienced adverse reactions from a specific drug, then warn physicians or take other action. Researchers could learn how patients respond to alternative therapies and assess their relative effectiveness and safety. They could study populations and variables not present in clinical trials and compare medical facilities and health care systems. It is no surprise that Academy Health advocated “development and dissemination of secondary health data as a public good.”1
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