New Medical Technologies May Mean Gaps in Patient Privacy

St. Paul, Minn.—New technologies flood the health care world daily, but according to a new report, patient privacy may ultimately suffer.

A recent survey of health care executives found that fewer than half of hospitals, doctors, pharmacies and insurers are prepared to protect patients from data breaches, even though many in the industry are racing to convert to electronic health records.
The study by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute interviewed 600 health care executives and discovered that less than half are addressing implications for privacy and security. Similarly, just half have addressed issues related to the use of mobile devices, and less than a quarter have thought about social media implications.
Patient advocate Twila Brase, president of Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom, a freedom- focused, patient-centered national health care organization based in St. Paul, Minn., says the race for new technologies is leaving some very important issues on the back burner, including keeping patient data private.
“Technology can be a wonderful advancement in the world of health care,” Brase said, “but when we jump in with both feet too soon, we forget about the patient and keeping patient data private. As technologies advance, there are simply too many holes that patient data can fall through—and this data can dangerously fall into the wrong hands.”
Sensitive and private patient information can be compromised as more and more data is shared through new technologies. Data can be accessed quicker and easier, and by more individuals, leaving patients’ private records vulnerable.The recent survey found that nearly 75 percent of health care organizations are planning to expand the purposes for which they use electronic patient health data. But just 47 percent are addressing privacy and security issues related to the electronic data, despite the fact that half of those surveyed said they were aware of some sort of privacy or security breach at their organization over the past two years. Health information technology, or Health IT, has been in the spotlight after attracting extra federal money under the 2009 stimulus bill, which included a provision that encouraged doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records.


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