Vast cache of Kaiser patient details was kept in private home

The excerpt below is from the LA Times article Vast cashe of Kaiser patient details was kept in private home by Chad Terhune. This shows both the negligence of Kaiser in caring for their patients, but also the lack of privacy and security that is frequently found in electronic health records.

“Federal and state officials are investigating whether healthcare giant Kaiser Permanente violated patient privacy in its work with an Indio couple who stored nearly 300,000 confidential hospital records for the company.

The California Department of Public Health has already determined that Kaiser “failed to safeguard all patients’ medical records” at one Southern California hospital by giving files to Stephan and Liza Dean for about seven months without a contract. The couple’s document storage firm kept those patient records at a warehouse in Indio that they shared with another man’s party rental business and his Ford Mustang until 2010.

Until this week, the Deans also had emails from Kaiser and other files listing thousands of patients’ names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and treatment information stored on their home computers.

The state agency said it was awaiting more information from Kaiser on its “plan of correction” before considering any penalties.

Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services began looking into Kaiser’s conduct last year after receiving a complaint from the Deans about the healthcare provider’s handling of patient data, letters from the agency show. Kaiser said it hadn’t been contacted by federal regulators, and a Health and Human Services spokesman declined to comment.”

Switch To Digital Medical Records Raises Concerns

Watch the Video of these interviews and read the full story HERE.

OAKLAND, Calif. — At his high-rise medical office in Oakland, orthopedic surgeon David Chang recently switched from those familiar but cumbersome paper medical files to digital records, making the change ahead of a federal requirement that goes into effect for all medical providers in 2014.

Chang now has a private company store his patients’ records electronically.

“Not only was it free – which was fantastic – but it saved me time,” said Chang.

That company is Practice Fusion in San Francisco. It’s part of a booming industry in electronic medical records software. Its service is free to some 30,000 doctors. KTVU discovered the reason the service is free is because the company legally sells the patient medical information it collects. Buyers include drug companies, medical insurers and others. They can get it if they say it’s for research…

…Some were opposed to such wholesale distribution of patient information.

“This is a nightmare. This is a nightmare. It’s nothing we’ve ever seen before in medicine,” said patient privacy rights advocate Dr. Deborah Peel.

Peel she said many patients and doctors don’t know the federal government quietly eliminated patients’ privacy rights for electronic records.

“It’s a free-for-all. It’s the wild west,” said Peel…

…Dr. Peel said new technology, for as little as five dollars a year, could protect your privacy and allow you to opt out of research databases. Privacy advocates said concerned patients need to lobby their lawmakers now.

National Consumer Health Privacy Survey 2005

In 1999, the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF) released a groundbreaking study of Americans’ attitudes and behaviors concerning health privacy. The study found that nearly three out of four Americans had significant concerns about the privacy and confidentiality of their medical records. Now six years later, following implementation of national privacy protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the President’s push to adopt electronic medical records, a new CHCF survey plumbs consumers’ attitudes about the privacy of their health information.

Conducted by Forrester Research, the survey reveals that—despite federal protections under HIPAA—two in three Americans are concerned about the confidentiality of their personal health information and are largely unaware of their privacy rights.

In addition, one in eight patients reportedly engages in behavior to protect personal privacy, presenting a potential risk to their health. More than half (52 percent) of respondents are concerned that employers may use health information to limit job opportunities, highlighting the implications of the privacy issue.

Yet despite these concerns, consumers report a favorable view of new health technology, with a majority (59 percent) willing to share personal health information when it could result in better medical treatment.

As efforts to develop a nationwide health information network proceed, unaddressed concerns about personal privacy could have major implications.

The complete survey findings and an executive summary are available under Document Downloads below.

Survey Instrument

Executive Summary

Slide Presentation