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March 25, 2009

Ownership of Medical Information

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Wake Forest University School of Law, Translational Science Institute, and Department of Social Sciences and Health Policy in the Division of Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina (Mr Hall); and Duke Clinical Research Institute and Department of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, and Health Sector Management Program, The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (Dr Schulman).

JAMA. 2009;301(12):1282-1284. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.389

Who owns medical information? The one who gives care, receives care, or pays for care? All of the above? None of the above? Does it really matter?

In the emerging era of electronic health informatics, few other medicolegal questions are more critical, more contested, or more poorly understood. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 allocates up to an estimated $20 billion to implement clinical information systems,1 and it aims for the use of electronic health information “for each person in the United States by 2014.” It fails, though, to resolve who owns this massive increase in electronic information. This legal uncertainty presents a major obstacle to integrating and using information about a single patient from various clinicians and hospitals.