In Race for COVID Research, Adaption and Privacy Concerns Are High
The need for different health info is growing, but current records need help

by Avery Martinez

In the midst of the worst pandemic in modern memory, health care and the information gathered from personal health records are reaching unprecedented proportions. As the government and tech industry move to meet the challenge, questions abound over the needs to adapt existing health record structures — and how to protect privacy when new pathways of sharing are born.

The University of Colorado’s Silicon Flatirons Center on Sept. 3 brought together experts from across the electronic health records community to discuss these challenges, revealing that one of the current dilemmas facing not only public health organizations but also the federal government is the collection and use of electronic health records to fight the coronavirus. defines an electronic health record, or EHR, as a digital version of a given patient’s “paper chart.” EHRs are patient-centered records that make information available in real time and in a secure format.

Dr. Eric Huang, assistant dean for Biomedical Informatics at Duke University and co-director of Duke Forge, a center for actionable health data science, works on how different data streams can be used to carry out research on the virus in different ways within a medical situation. He told the Silicon Flatirons audience that the use of certain information-gathering technology now being used to combat COVID are not normally contained in EHRs, such as Geographic Information System data.

One of the issues faced in terms of EHR data is the fact that many different health organizations use different resources. Huang compared the complications surrounding EHRs as trying to take a conventional military fighting a war at a national level, and trying to integrate state militia groups, who use very different forms of weapons, equipment, ammo, tactics and actions than the conventional military.


This complete article appears in the Sept. 14 issue of Law Week Colorado. To read other articles from that issue, order a copy onlineSubscribers can now access a digital PDF here.