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Health Data in the Information Age: Use, Disclosure, and Privacy

Leslie L. Cortés, MD
JAMA. 1994;272(19):1551. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520190097046.
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Medicine has a tradition of concern for the individual patient. Law has a tradition of delicately balancing the goals of society against the needs of the individual. Computer science is still too young to have a single tradition, but it has from its beginnings expressed concern for the social implications of its technologies. In this remarkable book, the three disciplines meet to consider the social consequences of comprehensive medical databases.

Robust databases that include both clinical and administrative data are evolving. As these become more inclusive, comprehensively covering a defined population, they become a valuable source of data that can be used to generate hypotheses, study practice patterns, and guide public policy. The same data can also be misused to deny employment, entitlement, and opportunities to individuals or groups identified in the database. A specialized organization is needed to collect, maintain, and analyze data sets that may encompass an entire


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