New Epidemic Fears: Hackers

The government is committing billions of dollars for technology systems that help healthcare providers share information. But making patient data more accessible has the unpleasant side effect of it potentially falling into the wrong hands.

Under the Obama administration’s stimulus bill and other proposals, portions of a $29 billion fund are available to reimburse hospitals and doctors’ offices that invest in electronic records systems and other software that might improve care and lower health-care costs. The government has stressed the need for increased security as part of this digitization initiative, but hasn’t yet proposed mechanisms for how the data will be protected.

Now, many privacy advocates are concerned the administration’s effort could end up making health information less secure. “If there isn’t a concerted effort to acknowledge that the security risks are very real and very serious then we could end up doing it wrong,” says Avi Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

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