Recent advances in computer technology permit the accumulation, analysis, and storage of an unlimited quantity of medical record information, thereby seriously compounding existing controversies surrounding patient confidentiality and privacy. This article surveys both benefits and problems arising from this increased availability of medical records. It examines legal and ethical dilemmas arising from the conflict between the usefulness of medical records for a variety of purposes, and the needs and interests of patients, in particular their right to privacy. The article suggests guidelines for insuring fair and balanced health information policies.

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