Last month we explored the privacy and trust considerations surrounding virtual health communities, online portals where people post their private medical information in hopes of gaining knowledge and helping others.
This month we turn to another online health paradigm that lives or dies by patient trust: electronic medical records (EMRs). President Obama asserts that, by 2014, the health records of all Americans will be stored electronically. Easy for him to say, writer Larry Dobrow found out when talking to those entrenched in the day-to-day realities of the U.S. healthcare industry, who cite patchwork state laws, interoperability issues, and politics as usual as monstrous impediments to bringing records online.
Protecting them once they are there is another can of worms, yet one that could make or break the success of EMRs. With this in mind, writes Dobrow, the government well could heed the approach of those in the private sector whose bottom line depends upon the trust of those who entrust in them their private health data. "Don't underestimate the role of public trust," says one.
Trust-building is the theme of our second article this month. In recent months we've explored different approaches to transparency and disclosure that can help or hinder trust-building efforts. The privacy policy is a place where that building (or breaking down) can begin, even though most of us--practitioners and consumers alike--probably don't think of it in those terms.
In "How to Read a Privacy Policy," the folks at the not-for-profit Common Data Project share the results of their intensive examination of 15 online privacy policies. Their insight sheds light on how such policies could be used to build trust and how, in an environment of trust, consumers might be more likely to loosen the leash on their valuable data.

J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP
Executive Director, IAPP


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