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IBM workers get online access to health records

IBM, the world's biggest computer company, will give its U.S. employees online access to their medical records, making it one of the first large companies to put workers' health data on the Internet.
/ Source: Reuters

IBM, the world's biggest computer company, will give its U.S. employees online access to their medical records, making it one of the first large companies to put workers' health data on the Internet.

IBM's roughly 133,000 workers in the United States will have the option to enroll in the online information system, IBM said in a memo scheduled to be sent to employees early Wednesday.  They can also sign up their dependents.

IBM said in the memo that workers' health records will be kept strictly confidential.  Only employees will have access to their medical records, which are protected by federal privacy and security rules as well as IBM's own policies.

International Business Machines Corp. of Armonk, New York, is among the first large U.S. companies to make employees' health records available online, spokesman Jorge Alberni said late Tuesday.  The records will allow employees and health care workers to review information about their allergies, medications, medical histories and test results, IBM said.

In an era where concerns about identity theft of financial information is mounting, the digitization of personal medical records potentially raises even greater privacy concerns.

While technically possible for decades, IBM is now forging ahead in part to demonstrate to its customers that it is willing to practice what it preaches as it pushes for greater use of automation in the health care and medical industries.

"The long-term goal for electronic health records is to make patient data securely available to health care providers such as hospitals and emergency personnel when and where the information is needed," IBM said in the memo.

IBM has about 330,000 employees worldwide.  The company said it had designed a national health care system using electronic records in Denmark.