If you are accused of a crime, there are four people who can’t be forced to testify against you, under traditional common law: your doctor, your lawyer, your priest and your spouse.

The last three are understandable. But why is there a doctor-patient privilege?

Even in civil suits, your opponents can subpoena your accountant, your business partners, your bank accounts and virtually all of your email. Why is there a special privilege that protects your communications with a doctor, along with your medical records?

Whatever the reason, it’s a privacy right that many Americans cherish.

And it’s a right that may be vanishing fast, for one basic reason: electronic health records (EHR).

The federal government has spent billions of dollars encouraging everyone in health care to maintain records digitally. Through the Medicare program, it financially rewards doctors who do this and heaps penalties on those who do not.