Anyone interested in the future of electronic databasing of prescription medications, or of electronic medical records, should become familiar with one word that likely will be key to such matters in the near future: biometrics.
Already, the federal government is funding the move toward electronic databasing of medical information; the stimulus bill earlier this year, for example, included monies for such measures. At the same time (and as noted here in the “Barr Code” on March 22, 2010), the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is pressuring states to require that anyone obtaining a prescription for any medication on the government’s list of “Controlled Substances,” register such activity in an electronic prescription drug database. Georgia, for example, is close to succumbing to such pressure and legislatively mandating such a privacy-invasive registry.
Now, in a just-published proposed rule in the Federal Register, DEA is proposing that a physician wishing to electronically prescribe any controlled substance (”e-prescription”) — something the government does not now permit — may do so using a biometric identifier, such as a fingerprint or an iris scan, as one of at least two methods of verifying the identify of the prescriber. If this rule becomes an enforceable federal regulation, it will open to door to much more extensive use by the government and the private sector of biometric identifiers.
Even now, some private clinics, such as one in the Bronx, New York according to published reports, are requiring patients to submit to biometric verification in order to receive healthcare. Such actions are consistent with the national drive to establish and use electronic databasing for virtually all medical records — for the sake of “efficiency,” of course. Clearly, however, databasing of personal and intimately private information as medical and prescription drug records, facilitates government tracking of such data. Use of electronic methods to store individual medical data also carries with it the potential for vast misuse and compromising of information on a scale not previously realized.
Still, with federal regulatory and law enforcement agencies (of which the DEA is both) becoming the tail wagging the medical and pharmaceutical dogs, clearly the trend is toward greater and greater use of electronic databases and including required biometric identifiers.