As I scrutinize Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) for possible inclusion in a literature review for my research, I find it both promising and troubling. The article appears to be pertinent to my research question of how various laws and practices might adversely affect shared access of electronic health records; however, it is important to understand if this article is a documentation of primary research or a review of existing research, and as I describe below, this is unclear. This lack of clarity obscures other facets of the article that important to a researcher. These are also described below.
Initially, the work of Dimitropoulos and Rizk appears to be pertinent to my research based on the title and the publication in which it appears. Health Affairs is a respected journal within the realm of public health research, practice, and instruction, and it is ranked seventh of all health policy and service journals by Journal Ranking (http://www.journal-ranking.com). Publication within Health Affairs does not degrade the reputation of the authors and serves only to promote their work to their peers. As my research is within the realm of public health, Health Affairs is an obvious avenue to pursue for relevant work, and as this article by Dimitropoulos and Rizk appears to reflect a specific focus on the relationship between privacy laws and the ability, or lack thereof, to share health information, it appears to have relevance.
According to the abstract, Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) examine how variations is state (and, territorial) privacy laws might inhibit sharing health information via an central exchange, or repository. Though it would seem plausible for Dimitropoulos and Rizk to conduct their own research, the abstract seems to imply that they are merely reporting on the findings of a committee charged with examining such irregularities in privacy laws amongst the states and territories, presumably, of Canada. After reading the report, though, I find a disconnect between the abstract and the article. In the abstract, it appears more as if the authors are detached reporters, but within the body of the article, it seems as though they appear to take ownership of the primary research. This is confusing as it was plainly stated that the research was conducted by a large consortium of state officials: “the project initially engaged organizations in thirty-four … and later … forty-two jurisdictions. This collaborative work is commonly referred to as the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration (HISPC)” (p. 429).
This report is confusing to read as the perspective shifts frequently between first- and third-person. Additionally, the authors describe opinions formed and emotions felt during the primary research (opinions and emotions that only the primary researchers could know), yet it is unclear if these were transmitted through other writing or if the authors formed and felt these themselves. It is unclear whether the authors, Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009), were participating researchers or merely reporters.
Both authors are noted to work for RTI International’s Survey Research Division, yet this corporation is not credited with any of the original research (Dimitropoulos & Rizk, 2009). I would have to conduct further research into the authors, their employer, and the project, itself, in order to make a final determination of the credibility of this article. This research would, hopefully, give the authors’ words better context, also. Complicating this is the absence of clearly delineated references, although a few appear within the Notes section that appear to be worth investigating.
Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) describe an effort to create a cohesive environment that will enhance the ability to share health information throughout a number of jurisdictions. As such, there is no scientific inquiry and it follows that adherence to the scientific method would be inappropriate. Again, however, it is unclear if this research is original or not.
In closing, it appears that Dimitropoulos and Rizk (2009) are credible in their writing; however, as each article must be able to stand on its own, and the article is lacking in form and perspective, I question the origination, application, and utility of this article, at least as it pertains to my original research question. Privacy in computing has been a major concern in the past two decades (Johnson, 2004). I feel that I could find more pertinent literature by expanding my search beyond this article.
Dimitropoulos, L. & Rizk, S. (2009).A state-based approach to privacy and security for interoperable health information exchange.Health Affairs, 28(2), 428-434. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.28.2.428
Johnson, D. G. (2004). Computer ethics. In L. Floridi (Ed.), The Blackwell guide to the philosophy of computing and information (pp. 65-75). Malden, MA: Blackwell.