Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FoxNews Talks About Wikileaks and E-Health - Do They Have a Point?

This popped up a few days ago.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/07/wikileaks-breach-raises-concern-privacy-electronic-medical-records/

WikiLeaks Breach Raises Concern About Privacy of Electronic Medical Records

The embarrassing leak of a quarter-million State Department documents by WikiLeaks has recharged the debate over electronic medical records, raising concern that the government may not be capable of safeguarding Americans' most intimate health care secrets when their records go digital.

Doctors and privacy advocates alike are pointing to the havoc wreaked by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and allegedly Bradley Manning, the low-level Army private accused of facilitating it, in arguing that the government needs to slow down its push for digital medical records.

The Obama administration is calling for all doctors and hospitals to go digital by 2014 or, if they're in the Medicare system, face penalties starting the following year. The 2009 stimulus bill pumped billions of dollars in incentives into this effort, while this year's health care law set up more programs to encourage the use and study of digital dossiers.

The goal is to reduce costs and medical errors by making this information accessible, presumably to the right people at the right time. But as the WikiLeaks fiasco showed, the bigger the network grows the more likely it is that the wrong people can take advantage of it.

"Even the most top-secret things can't be kept secret," said Dr. Alieta Eck, who with her husband runs a clinic near Edison, N.J., for the poor and uninsured. Eck said she keeps electronic records for her office only but does not plan on meeting the new federal standards, citing concerns about how that information will be shared and how it could erode the trust she has with her patients.

"If you think WikiLeaks is bad, this is gonna be WikiLeaks on steroids," said Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights.

Peel, who has long expressed concerns about the digitization of medical records, said "everything from prescription records to your DNA" will soon be floating around, susceptible to hackers from the outside and troublemakers from the inside.

She cited a study from health care security firm FairWarning, which estimated that health care providers have on average between 25 and 100 privacy breaches per month -- absent the kind of monitoring system that FairWarning sells.

The Department of Health and Human Services has stressed the importance of patient privacy as it encourages medical providers to go digital. The department this year has been formulating the rules to carry out a provision from the stimulus law known as the HITECH Act, under which Medicare doctors are eligible to receive up to $44,000 over five years to establish electronic health records. According to the department, the new rules would strengthen patient protections by giving them the right to restrict certain kinds of disclosures and prohibiting the sale of certain information without their say-so.

Full article here:

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/12/07/wikileaks-breach-raises-concern-privacy-electronic-medical-records/

For those who don’t know Fox News is owned by an American Citizen late of these shores (Rupert Murdoch) and reflects a political position that it would be fair to say would make Alan Jones seem like a deep red leftie!

However they point they make has considerable validity and should just not be ignored - especially when faced with a sceptical and increasingly rather alienated population who seem to be losing faith in the overall political and government systems to deliver for them.

They make the point just how well will the Government do with private Health Information if they can’t protect national secrets!

Any planning for e-Health that involves large aggregated data sets needs to be very well managed - and shown to be both well governed and well managed for there to be the level of trust we will need for success!

David.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A newspaper editorial last week commented "health reforms ... fell far shy of an integrated hospital system". Further integration of health services relies on investments in information technology. The Productivity Commission's 2005 report on Medical Technology concluded "With ICT spending currently accounting for 1–3 per cent of total healthcare costs and, based on international experience, likely to climb to 4–5 per cent, it is vital that this money be well spent. This will require greater national coordination and discipline than appears to have been in place over the past decade in ICT spending on healthcare."
We can be pretty sure that the large hiatus in funding has been earmarked and divvied up between the players in the IT industry, in anticipation of a government in panic or haste simply throwing the money out and hoping for the best.
After five years, there seems to be no surety that a business model, let alone a business case, for this extra funding will emerge soon. It's likely that health IT will be grafted into the NBN, as if that will magically generate a consenting nod from the taxpayer. However, in the matter of electronic health records, the taxpayer will not be fooled. The vast majority of citizens invest zero in the collation and maintenance of their own health records. So, if we are asked whether we would like to pay as little as $30 per month for someone else to look after our records, the answer is predictable. On the other hand, $30 per month may not be too much to ask for broadband access to sports, movies and on-line gambling.
Apart from Wikileaks and Pink Batts, other major failures will have impinged on the public consciousness. Some trust will have been lost with the IT problems at NAB, and the intrusions into Gawker that led to publication of passwords and "revelations" of weak security at systems and personal levels.
But the one incident that should lead to most learning is that recent failure of the Qantas jet engine.
The first is that aircraft crew have their own skin in the game, unlike health care workers. Perhaps our methods of rewards and punishments for failures need another look.
The second relates to the nature of the failed engine part. It may turn out that (a) the manufacturing process was not able to test that part before it was put into use and/or (b) it's possible persons responsible for detecting poor quality had reasons to believe their own jobs were more important than the safety of aircraft.
Of course, the best explanation for very slow progress of integration through investments in IT is that there are many parties, in public and private sectors, with investments in leaving things as they are. Like, perverse incentives.