PHR savings estimate causes industry ‘illusion’

o save $21 billion annually, where will the savings come from? How many layoffs? It’s these–30 minutes per person, per day saving calculations–that scare me.

For anyone who has been in healthcare for 35 to 40 years, the introduction of electronic thermometers is something they may recall. These devices were supposed to save hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Did they? No! Expenditures actually increased. The same scenario occurred with the introduction of disposable surgical packs and gowns. The examples are too numerous to mention.

Does anyone know about Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s law? Simply, it is work expands to fill available time.

Unions Say CVS Pushed Costly Drug to Doctors

A group of labor unions is launching a campaign that accuses CVS Caremark Corp. of violating patient privacy and improperly pushing doctors to prescribe a costly prescription drug.

Change to Win, a group of unions that represents about six million workers, said CVS’s pharmacy benefits management business has been urging doctors via a letter to add Merck & Co. diabetes drug Januvia to specific patients’ treatments. The letter, obtained by the union group, said CVS identified the diabetes patients through a review of prescription-drug claims processed by its Caremark unit.

A line at the bottom of the letter says Merck paid for the mailing. Neither Merck nor CVS would say how much Merck paid, and the drug maker also declined to say whether the mailing boosted Januvia sales.

Is There a Privacy Risk in Google Flu Trends?

When Google released its Flu Trends service earlier this week, the Drudge Report flashed a headline that read: “SICK SURVEILLANCE: GOOGLE REPORTS FLU SEARCHES, LOCATIONS TO FEDS.”

Google sought to avoid this kind of reaction by talking about how Google Flu Trends protects the privacy of its users. The service relies “on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week,” Google said.

Still, the worries persist. On Wednesday, two advocacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and Patient Privacy Rights, sent a letter to Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, raising privacy concerns: “The question is how to ensure that Google Flu Trends and similar techniques will only produce aggregate data and will not open the door to user-specific investigations, which could be compelled, even over Google’s objection, by court order or Presidential authority.” The letter went on to challenge Google to publish the techniques it has adopted to protect the privacy of search queries used for Flu Trends.

There is no doubt that there are longstanding and legitimate privacy concerns about the collection and storage of search data by companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. They all retain logs of the searches conducted by millions of people for varying periods of time. The logs include the search terms used in a query, the I.P. address of the computer that sent the query and a cookie associated with that computer. Those search logs could be misused by the companies, and they certainly can be subpoenaed by the government or sought by private litigants in civil lawsuits. More than two years ago, The New York Times showed how the data could be used to identify the individuals behind certain queries, at least before the data is partially “anonymized.”

UF officials say hacker accessed 344,400 dental-patient records

University of Florida officials say an unauthorized intruder accessed a College of Dentistry computer server containing personal information of more than 344,000 current and former dental patients.
The information included names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers and dental procedure information for patients dating back to 1990.
According to a university news release, the breach was discovered Oct. 3, when college staff members were upgrading the server and found software had been remotely installed on it.
While UF officials have no evidence the intruder used the information for fraudulent purposes, letters were mailed to people who had information on the system to alert them.
Patients with questions should call 866-783-5883.

SICK SURVEILLANCE: GOOGLE REPORTS FLU SEARCHES, LOCATIONS TO FEDS

GOOGLE will launch a new tool that will help federal officials “track sickness”.

Flu terms uses search terms that people put into the web giant to figure out where influenza is heating up and will notify the centers for disease control and prevention in real time.

Google, continuing to work closely with government, claims it will keep individual user data confidential: “GOOGLE FLU TRENDS can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week.”

Engineers will capture keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and others.

Threat Claims Theft of Data on Patients

Express Scripts Inc., one of the nation’s largest pharmacy-benefit managers, said it received an anonymous letter early last month seeking money as part of a threat to expose “millions” of patients’ personal records.
Pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts Inc. announced that it received an anonymous letter in October which threatened to expose the personal records of millions of people. The letter included the names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth for approximately 75 people who are part of drug plans administered by the company. The authors of the letter asked for money in exchange for keeping the rest of the information confidential. Express Scripts notified the patients who were cited in the letter and contacted the FBI. The company has also increased its data security and hired computer-forensics experts to investigate the data breach. An Express Scripts spokesperson said that there is no evidence that any customer’s personal information has been used inappropriately.

Social Security number, medical records found in municipal Dumpster

Branches of county and state government in Pinellas have improperly disposed of documents that contain citizens’ sensitive personal information. Pinellas clerk of the circuit court auditors released a report Friday that says child abuse records, juvenile defendant information, Social Security numbers, medical information and privileged attorney-client documents turned up in Dumpsters at several government complexes.
Hundreds of documents were involved, the report states, and the
inappropriate disposals may violate state and federal law.
“Citizens are forced to provide confidential information to the government,”
said Bob Melton, the clerk’s audit director. “So the government has a huge
responsibility to ensure that information is protected. And in these cases,
it was not.”
Melton said there is no evidence any information fell into the wrong hands,
though the risk is certainly there. And there’s no indication, Melton said,
that the improper disposals were intentional. He’s urging county leaders to
educate employees on proper procedures for getting rid of sensitive
material.

Case Western Reserve University professors call for regulation of electronic health records

Cost and security concerns about bringing health care record keeping into the 21st century through electronic health records (EHR) have led to a call for an effective regulatory and oversight system from a pair of Case Western Reserve University professors. “Electronic information can be illicitly accessed from anywhere and transmitted across the globe quickly, cheaply, and with little risk of detection”, stated Sharona Hoffman, professor of law and bio-ethics at the School of Law. “EHR systems could transform health care in the United States, but their potential will be realized only with careful oversight.”
Sharona Hoffman, along with her husband, professor Andy Podgurski from the Case School of Engineering, are responsible for one of the first scholarly studies to assess the need for federal regulation of electronic health record systems. “Finding a Cure: The Case for Regulation and Oversight of Electronic Health Record Systems” – Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, forthcoming 2009 – comes on the heels of two previous publications by the two on security and privacy issues of EHRs and critiques of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Security Rule.
Most Americans would argue against an increase in government regulation, but as Sharona Hoffman believes, some regulation in an area like health care record systems is needed. “We regulate drugs, transportation, communication, food, and many other goods and services”, she stated. “A safe and effective transition to computerized medical records cannot be achieved without federal regulation.”

Private Access seeks to share health data for patients without giving up privacy

The company Private Access allows people with health conditions to describe their problems anonymously.
Robert Shelton was a successful real estate developer who became wealthy creating buildings such as the Palm Springs Convention Center. But his world was rocked when his son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder. He then faced a quandary. He needed to find treatment for his son, but doing so would cost his family its privacy.
That dilemma ultimately spurred a business, Private Access, which is coming out of stealth today at the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco. The company allows people with health conditions to describe their problems anonymously. It also posts news of clinical trials of new treatments. It thus allows medical researchers and potential research subjects to find each other.
The Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based business combines matters related to health, social networking, and search. The motto: “privacy and access in perfect balance.” It tries to reconcile the need for “data liquidity,” meaning a two-way flow of health information, with the need for data privacy.
How, for instance, does a sick patient find treatment options without revealing his or her condition to family members, who might “worry too much.” The patient may also need help with insurance intricacies but may not want to give the insurance agency a reason to deny coverage.

Response to: Will Technology Cure Health Care — Or Kill It?

Giving your genome to a for-profit corporation for testing today is a very dangerous act for the following reasons:

1) Americans NO longer have the right to health privacy! Today, your rights to health privacy in electronic health systems are nil. You have no control over personal electronic health information. Federal bureaucrats eliminated our rights to control the use and disclosures of personal health information in electronic systems in 2002. The media has not reported on this drastic elimination of every Americans’ privacy rights. See HIPAA’s Intent v. Reality.

2) Once you reveal your genome, you will never be able to delete it from the private corporation’s data bases or make it private again. Why on earth would you pay someone to take and use the most personal health data that exists about you and your family for whatever purposes they choose? Think about Paris Hilton’s sex video, once it was out in cyberspace, it can never be private again. It will live for millenia on the Internet.

3) Why pay a private corporation like 23andMe or any other for-profit genetic testing lab to take your extremely valuable and sensitive personal health data and give it to them as a CORPORATE asset—to sell, to disclose to researchers for studies you might not want to be part of, to sell as an asset to employers or insurers or financial institutions, or even to sell to the US Government as part of the data profiles they are building on every American in Fusion Centers.

4) The legal duties of coporations are to stockholders, not to patients or people who buy genetic tests. Genetic testing labs like 23andMe can be bought by Google or the Bank of America or to a business that sells employers genetic snapshots of future employees’ potential illnesses. Even if you trust a genetic lab—-you have no control over whether that corporation is sold to another corporation that you would never want to own your DNA.

5) Today’s health IT systems are notoriously insecure and hackable. An industry study of 850 electronic health records systems found ALL of them could easily be hacked. See Article.

What assurances do you have that the lab’s database is secure enough to prevent your genome or genetic tests from being stolen?

6) It is crtical to understand that giving ownerhsip of a personal asset like your DNA or genome to a corporation is a very bad idea. Not only do you put your future opportunities at risk, you endanger your entire family’s futures at the same time.

As a practicing physician who has spent over 30 years listening to patients whose sensitve medical records were used against them by employers or used to humiliate them or harm them in public, I am very well aware of how personal health information is used to harm people and ruin lives. I founded Patient Privacy Rights because health information should never be used except to help you get well or for research WITH your informed consent. No one should be denied a job or a promotion because of fears about their future health.

Because of the lack of privacy, 600,000 people refuse to seek treatment or early diagnosis for cancer and 2,000,000 refuse treatment for mental illness. 150,000 Iraqi vets refuse treatment for PTSD because they fear their treatment will not be private. The result is the highest rate of suicide among active duty military in 30 years. The lack of health privacy kills.

Current law is just not enough to protect health privacy. GINA is not enough. We need Congress to restore our longstanding Constitutional, legal, and ethical rights to control personal health information. Without that right firmly re-established in Federal law, giving ANYONE your sensitive genomic or health information is a very bad idea.

Check out our website. You can sign up for e-alerts about health privacy in the Digital Age. If we are able to restore control over our personal digital health information, then we have a powerful model for building personal control over ALL our personal electronic data (financial, email, phone records, purchases, etc). If you do not fight for your privacy rights, who will?

If EVERYTHING about you is for sale and can be seen by everyone, will you continue to have your precious liberties and freedoms?

See Original Article