Healthcare // Electronic Health Records
News
11/12/2009
08:45 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Can Electronic Medical Records Be Secured?

While EMRs promise massive opportunities for patient health benefits and reductions in administrative costs, the privacy and security risks are daunting.

While electronic medical records promise massive opportunities for patient health benefits and reductions in administrative costs, the privacy and security risks are equally huge.

The Obama administration has set an ambitious goal--to get electronic medical records on file for every American by 2014. The administration is offering powerful incentives: $20 billion in stimulus funds as per the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, and stiff Medicare penalties for healthcare providers that fail to implement EMRs after 2014.

EMRs offer tantalizing benefits: Improved efficiency via the elimination of tons of paper files in doctors' offices, and better medical care through the use of the same kinds of database and data mining technologies that are now routine in other industries. One example: EMR systems can flag symptoms and potentially harmful drug interactions that busy doctors might otherwise miss.

But the accompanying privacy and security threats are significant. When completed, the nation's EMR infrastructure will be a massive store of every American's most personal, private information, and a potential target of abuse by marketers, identity thieves, and unscrupulous employers and insurance companies.

Regulators are attempting to craft rules that would unlock the benefits of EMRs while protecting Americans from the security risks. Healthcare IT pros will be required to implement systems and business processes that conform to these regulations, or face lost funding, institutional fines -- and, in some cases, personal criminal penalties.

The new regulations come as the healthcare industry faces big privacy problems, going back years. In 2003, a medical transcriptionist in Pakistan threatened to post patient records from the University of California San Francisco's Medical Center on the Internet unless she was paid for her work for a transcription service company hired by the university.

The dispute was resolved, but in the meantime, patients had no idea their records were being sent overseas. In another breach, two computers that held the confidential records of close to 200,000 patients of a medical group in San Jose, California, were posted for sale on Craigslist.org. The FBI recovered the information and the medical group informed current and former patients of the theft, according to a 2006 report in the HIPAA Bulletin.

Previous
1 of 4
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest September 24, 2014
Start improving branch office support by tapping public and private cloud resources to boost performance, increase worker productivity, and cut costs.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.