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Shadow medical records could pave new pathways for better health care

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We all possess an official record on the medical files that have been locked away inside the computers or cabinet files in the offices of hospitals or individual doctors. These files and information are protected under strict laws to maintain privacy. However, little do we know that we also possess informal or shadow records that are simply generated as we live our life.

In the latest article published over the journal Science, a group of experts brought attention to the shadow records. This team describes this as data which is generated by anyone and everyone who tend to wear fitness trackers, use smartphone-based health apps, shop for health-based items, or anything related to health bought via online platforms. This also includes searches carried out over search engines or social media.

When the academic researchers pool together this information to create a shadow-record, they can easily fuel the overall progress of health care industry with innovation and research, mentioned Nicholson Price, the team leader and Assistant Professor of law at the University of Michigan. Not just that, the team stated that various companies promoting health care have already begun the process of selling and gathering access to humongous amounts of this data. However, they say that there are certain rules that do apply when it comes to storing such shadow data along with its use and protection of data privacy.

On the other hand, many academic researchers have already started studying this data in bulk but only after the names and individual identifications have been stripped off from the medical records. This particular form of study has been termed as Health Services Research and has managed to fuel several improvements into health care policymaking.

Price along with Kayte Spector-Bagdady, who is an assistant professor working at University of Michigan Medical School, together reviewed the present laws as well as regulations revolving around shadow records in health care. According to Bagdady, all type of industry involvement with health care data isn’t actually bad as it can propel innovation in the industry. However, relying on the loopholes for the collection of personal data for health can actually be a predatory move.

The team now calls for better clarifications in the current regulations for making sure that the research for public interest will proceed forward as required. They also recommend that hearings related to health data-privacy should be paid special attention.

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