Concern About Medical Records Is Not Misplaced

In her letter of March 30, Mary Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, implies that Dr. Deborah Peel is being alarmist and hysterical about fears of electronic medical records (EMR) privacy (“Your Medical Records Aren’t Secure,” op-ed. March 24). Ms. Grealy makes the fantastic assertion that EMRs are less vulnerable than paper ones. Nonsense.

I do not recall many news stories of trucks hauling away 10,000 or 100,000 paper charts for diffusion to identity thieves, but massive IT security breaches and computer thefts involving tens of thousands of records or more are increasingly common. As one example, your Feb. 18 article “Global Attack Snags Corporate, Personal Data,” tells about how hackers in Europe and China broke into computers at more than 2,400 companies and government agencies over the last 18 months, as well as at 10 U.S. government agencies. It is quite realistic to be concerned about how hospitals, generally an IT backwater, will fare.

Health IT coordinator attacks rumors that spy agencies would tap into patient information network

Dr. David Blumenthal, national coordinator for health information technology, has strongly denied any plans to develop a national network that would transmit patients’ medical information to the Justice and Homeland Security departments…

…Rather than defusing concerns, privacy advocates said Blumenthal’s remarks only heightened questions about what role NIEM standards, and the law enforcement agencies that developed them, will play in a national health information network.

Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, said she believes Blumenthal is well-intentioned in his aim to ensure patient information is not transmitted to law enforcement or intelligence agencies. But promises do not have the force of law, she noted.

IT’s surprising leader in patient privacy

IT vendors will make billions of dollars on electronic health records (EHR) – if we can get people to use them. But vendors are mostly silent on the issue of health privacy…

The problem
Dr. Deborah Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of Patient Privacy Rights said in a recent column in the Wall Street Journal:

In 2002, under President George W. Bush, the right of a patient to control his most sensitive personal data—from prescriptions to DNA—was eliminated by federal regulators implementing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Those privacy notices you sign in doctors’ offices do not actually give you any control over your personal data; they merely describe how the data will be used and disclosed.

But patients are right to fear the release of potentially embarrassing information on such health issues as STDs, depression or substance abuse problem, abortions or miscarriages and other issues that should be between a patient and their doctor – not a mortgage company or an employer.

Privacy concerns surface over ONC data project

There’s an old warning, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.”

Last week, David Blumenthal, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS, tried to tamp down some blogosphere-based insinuations that work by his office might be contributing to a national surveillance state.

PR Firm Behind Propaganda Videos Wins Stimulus Contract

President Obama’s push for electronic medical records has faced resistance from those who question whether health information technology systems can protect patient privacy…

…Consumer advocates warned that the PR contract will only heighten skepticism about the security of online health records. A poll conducted last year by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health found that roughly six in 10 Americans lack confidence in the privacy of online health records.

“The public has always been very suspicious over whether electronic health information will be safe,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, a physician and founder of the Coalition for Patient Privacy, which includes consumer, privacy and health groups. Peel called Ketchum a “very, very troubling choice because the last thing the public needs are more tricks being pulled on them.”

NHIN won’t funnel information to CIA: Blumenthal

David Blumenthal, head of HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, has denied allegations that a framework for selecting data transmission standards for the proposed national health information network would configure the system to afford federal control over patient data and funnel that information to federal agencies, including the CIA, Justice Department and National Security Agency.

Blumenthal’s remarks came more than three hours into the March 25 meeting of the Health IT Standards Committee. The committee is a federal panel created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the stimulus law, to advise the ONC on matters concerning health IT standards.

EMR Data Theft Booming

Acceleration in the use of electronic medical records may lead to an increase in personal health information theft, according to a new study that shows there were more than 275,000 cases of medical information theft in the U.S. last year.

Unlike stealing a driver’s license or a credit card, data gleaned from personal health records provides a wealth of information that helps criminals commit multiple crimes, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, a Pleasanton, California-based market research firm.

Sheriff: ID theft ring pilfered files at NU physicians’ group

They boasted of their purchases in Facebook photos that showed them flashing shiny jewelry while eating at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in their brand-name outfits — the tags still attached, authorities said.

In what Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart described as a “sophisticated identity-theft ring,” a janitor stole data from as many as 250 patient files at a Northwestern University physicians’ group and, with the help of her two sisters and friends, used the personal information to charge more than $300,000 in jewelry, furniture, appliances and electronics. They sold the goods to friends and relatives, pocketing the profits, the charges alleged.

Seven suspects have been arrested, while three others, including janitor Tijuana Leonard, are wanted on felony warrants, according to the sheriff’s office.

“They had it down to a science,” Dart said. “They performed it like a job.”

While working the night shift for Millard Cleaning Service, Leonard, 33, of Chicago, stole personal information from patient files in the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation’s offices and passed it along to others, Dart said.