I read a recent New York Times article by Robert Pear, and as I sat at my desk, I felt that I needed to post a response.
The article points to a facet of the problem facing the sharing of medical records: holding on to customer data and not sharing it with competitors is standard business in most industries. This can most certainly be applied to clinical data in the healthcare industry as well; however, it is now illegal to do so, and there is enough of an enforcement threat that I don't see this business practice as a barrier for the exchange of medical records going forward.
Yet, the main point of the article, which is that clinical records are not effectively being shared between providers (to the surprise of patients), simply needs to be addressed. There has been far too much invested to abandon the last mile.
To clarify this issue, one needs to first be aware that sharing healthcare data is very complex, and must be looked at from two separate perspectives, that of healthcare system administration and the providers themselves.
We will need to address all of these issues with adequate legislation, education, and software, for both the provider and the consumer, with the proper incentives as drivers for change. The Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model with pay for performance incentives to health systems is becoming the leading incentive for clinical data to be shared. An ACO needs to report on its aggregated quality of care measures across a whole population, forcing clinical data to be shared within the ACO, and practices are reimbursed for keeping a population healthy rather than the prevalent fee for service model.
In order to keep a population healthy, you need to share and make sense of all the data available, so data sharing becomes the norm. The ACOs are becoming a driver for the exchange of medical records, and software designed to meet these needs is being developed and implemented. My company Healthjump is working on these specific problems, as well as building the capability for the patient to be in the middle of this data flow.