The Institute for Health Freedom (IHF) is warning the public that the economic stimulus bill mandates the federal government to plan for each American to use an electronic health record (EHR) by 2014 -- without opt-out or patient-consent provisions.

"Congress needs to add opt-out and patient-consent provisions to ensure true patient privacy," says Sue Blevins, IHF president. "The bottom line is that if you want to control the flow of your personal health information, your consent to share the information must be a prerequisite and you must have the right to withhold permission. And neither the current federal (HIPAA) privacy rule nor the economic stimulus bill guarantees Americans the right of consent."

IHF stresses that while Congress will be hearing about potential cost-savings from EHRs, it should seriously consider the costs of not allowing Americans to opt out of a national EHR system: more patients will withhold private information as they lose trust in the confidential doctor-patient relationship and lose control over the widespread disclosure of their most personal information.

The organization urges Americans to continue voicing their own opinions about this important issue to national policymakers. IHF further stresses that for both ethical and financial reasons, confidentiality and consent are both cost-effective and essential for improving the quality of health care.