Usability Failures Heat Up EHR Replacement Market, Black Book Rankings Survey

“According to a recent Black Book Market Research user surveys, the demands of EHR usability can no longer be ignored. 100% of nearly 2,900 practices engaged in the poll report they are employing much stricter selectivity in the replacement market wave and driving more informed decisions as they prepare to swap out original EHR systems.”

To view the full release: Usability Failures Heat Up EHR Replacement Market, Black Book Rankings Survey

Jonah Goldberg: Civil Libertarians’ Hypocrisy

This insightful piece highlights the drastic violations of our current healthcare system in relation to the recent NSA breach.

Key quote from the article:

“What I have a hard time understanding, however, is how one can get worked up into a near panic about an overreaching national security apparatus while also celebrating other government expansions into our lives, chief among them the hydrahead leviathan of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). The 2009 stimulus created a health database that will store all your health records. The Federal Data Services Hub will record everything bureaucrats deem useful, from your incarceration record and immigration status to whether or not you had an abortion or were treated for depression or erectile dysfunction.”

My Routine – Mark Rothstein, Law Professor

To view the full article, please visit My Routine – Mark Rothstein, Law Professor.

This is a very interesting article about Mark Rothstein’s opinion of current governmental actions involving privacy law. Rothstein asserts, “We live in an age in which consent should not be mistaken for choice. We click through consent on software without even reading it. Even if we technically consented, I doubt very much whether the average person would say, ‘Oh sure, it’s OK for my phone company to accumulate all this data about me.'”

In the interview, Rothstein also comments on the views of Louis D. Brandeis, saying “He felt that the government set the tone for society. If the government doesn’t value privacy and invades people’s privacy, then everybody will do that. He also thought it was very important that government activities be subject to review by the political process and the people.”

What is Snowden’s Impact on Health IT?

To view the full article, please visit What is Snowden’s Impact on Health IT?

This is a highly interesting article about the effect of Edward Snowden’s actions on health IT. In the interview with PPR’s own Dr. Deborah Peel, the issues of privacy that our government is currently facing can also be applied to the healthcare industry. As Dr. Peel aptly states, “The Department of Health and Human Services claims its actions are justified to lower healthcare costs. These are obviously very different agencies collecting different kinds of very sensitive personal information, but both set up hidden, extremely intrusive surveillance systems that violate privacy rights and destroy trust in government.”

A key argument that Dr. Peel makes is “The benefits of technology can be reaped in all sectors of our economy without the harms if we restore/update our laws to assure privacy of personally identifiable information in electronic systems. Our ethics, principles, and fundamental rights should be applied to the uses of technology.”

Prince William’s DNA

As more individuals start posting their genomes or other genetic information online, privacy issues grow. A recent article from GenomeWeb about Prince William’s DNA highlights one of PPR’s concerns about publicly sharing such information: one person’s choice to research and reveal information about themselves reveals information about so many others who had no say in that decision.

To be clear, PPR is not opposed to genetic testing and actually believes there are many new and exciting possibilities that exist within the realm of genetic analysis. However, there are several issues that need to be addressed before people start encouraging others to publicly share their own genetic information. This excerpt from the article sums up the dilemma quite nicely:

“What is noteworthy is the ethics of publishing details of this genetic analysis at all,” Brice says, noting that “one of the major ethical concerns about genetic information and privacy” is that individual information can lead to the disclosures about family members.

The Duke’s cousins are free to have genetic tests if they want, but disclosing information about other, non-consenting individuals, is “highly questionable,” Brice says.

To read the full article, click here. (Note: Free subscription may be required).

Privacy Hawk: Put Patients at Center of Health Information Exchange (Quotes Dr. Peel)

“If healthcare organizations truly want to protect patient privacy and earn public trust regarding electronic health records (EHRs), they need to let go of the notion that institutions control individual data and look for technology that lets patients take charge of information flow…”

Key quotes from the article:

  • -“Many commercial EHRs started as systems to improve the operational side of healthcare and increase reimbursement, not to improve clinical care”
  • -“‘We’re stuck with these frankly primitive and privacy-disruptive systems that need to be fixed,’ Peel said at WTN Media’s 11th annual Digital Health Conference.”
  • -To Peel, last week’s revelations that the National Security Agency has been tracking phone calls and e-mails of virtually every American for at least six years shined a light on an issue that long has been prevalent in the healthcare industry.
  • -“‘In healthcare we actually have a total surveillance economy, too,’ said Peel, an Austin, Texas, psychiatrist.”
  • “‘We don’t actually know where our health data goes. We have no chain of custody, much less control over our health information,’ she said. Having personal information get out could lead to ‘health discrimination’ in employment or insurance coverage for patients with mental health disorders, sexually transmitted diseases or cancer, Peel added, and the threat of a breach often leads to care avoidance.”

Sign the Petition for Patient-Controlled Exchange of Health Information

Sign the petition asking Congress to put you in control of exchanging your sensitive health data via Health Data Exchanges (HIEs)!

Sign the petition here.

By the end of the year, every state must have one or more Health Information Exchange (HIEs) so your health data can be transferred to other doctors, the state, the federal government, insurers, technology companies, researchers, commercial users, and many other institutions.

Today those institutions and organizations decide when and to whom to transfer your health data—not you.

KEY PRINCIPLES FOR DATA EXCHANGE USING HIEs:

• You should control whether or not your health information is exchanged.

• You should have full access to electronic copies of all your health information.

• You should know what information the HIE exchanges, stores or collects, with whom your data is shared, and the purpose for using it.

View and sign the petition asking Congress to strengthen the law so Americans can trust electronic health systems and data exchanges.

States’ Hospital Data for Sale Puts Privacy in Jeopardy

TODAY: watch Prof Sweeney and Jordan Robertson present their research on how easily patients could be re-identified patients from hospital data sold by the state of Washington —at the 3rd International Summit on the Future of Health Privacy in Washington, DC. Register to watch free at: www.healthprivacysummit.org.
Every state sells or gives away sensitive hospital data without regard to how easily it can be re-identified and sold, not just Washington. The buyers may want to sell you something or use your records for employment background checks. Health data is easily available for hidden discrimination.

The solution is all users of personal health data should have to ask first.

Employees’ unhealthy habits have growing effect on their insurance premiums

The story below concludes that “Employees now contribute 42 percent more for health care than they did five years ago.”   Just because employees are stuck paying higher healthcare bills doesn’t necessarily mean they are causing costs to increase.

If employees were driving up healthcare costs, then using financial penalties to force them to undergo intrusive health screenings and join wellness programs might make sense.

But employees aren’t causing the high costs of healthcare in the US.  Time magazine concluded that healthcare corporations, such as hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry, outpatient procedures, and lobbying costs are the main culprits.

Time magazine’s issue titled “Bitter Pill, why medical bills are killing us” identified several factors in high US healthcare costs:

The article below quotes the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a lobbying group with assests of $18,772,047 in 2011. The NBGH blames employees for rising healthcare costs, instead of its many healthcare corporation members.

  • -URL for NBGH members: https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/join/members.cfm
  • -Blaming employees allows the NBGH to defend using coercive, intrusive wellness programs even for employees with complex, hard-to-manage illnesses, that wellness programs don’t help:
    • -See “Wellness Incentives In The Workplace: Cost Savings Through Cost Shifting To Unhealthy Workers” By Jill R. Horwitz, Brenna D. Kelly, and John E. DiNardo. Health Affairs, 32, no.3 (2013):468-476; doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.0683; http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/3/468.full.html

Meanwhile screening companies, labs, and wellness programs collect sensitive employee health information and control its use, disclosure, and sale.

  • -There is no ‘chain of custody’ for health data so employees have no way to know who sees their health information.
  • -The US has NO data map to track the thousands of hidden companies that collect, use, or sell Americans’ personal health information.
  • -Corporations that collect employees’ health information treat it as a corporate asset, not as sensitive personal information that patients have strong rights to control.
  • -So it’s impossible to verify whether the NBGH lobbyist’s statement that “few employers would risk intentionally misusing such information” is true or false.

Blaming people who are sick for the high costs of their medical care instead of the corporations that overcharge is a really neat trick. It also provides a rationale for coercing employees to enter wellness programs and violating their rights to health privacy.

Unfortunately, simply “blaming the victims” won’t solve escalating healthcare costs.  We have to look broadly at individuals, the entire healthcare system, the food-chain, and larger cultural factors to identify and deal with all the real causes.

Sensitive data still pose special challenges

At a recent meeting of the National Health IT Policy Committee, the CEO of a large electronic health records (EHR) corporation said technology for “data segmentation”—which ensures patients control who sees and uses sensitive data—is something “vendors don’t know how to do.”  But that simply isn’t true. Vendors do know how to build that kind of technology, in fact it already exists.

At the same meeting, the National Coordinator for Health IT recognized the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for their “demonstration of technology developed for data segmentation and tagging for patient consent management”, but he seemed to forget that millions of people receiving mental health and addiction treatment have been using EHRS with consent and data segmentation technologies for over 12 years. Again, the technology already exists.

Facts:

  • -Technology is NOT the problem—it’s not too hard or too expensive to build or use consent and data segmentation technologies.
  • -Data segmentation and consent technologies exist:  the oldest example is EHRs used for millions of mental health and addiction treatment records for the past 12 years.
  • -All EHRs must be able to “segment” erroneous data to keep it from being disclosed and harming patients—that same technology can be used to “segment” sensitive health data.
  • -Data segmentation and consent technologies were demonstrated ‘live’ at the Consumer Choices Technology Hearing in 2010. See a video: http://nmr.rampard.com/hit/20100629/default.html
  • -Starting in 2001, HIPAA required data segmentation and consent technology for EHRs that keep “psychotherapy notes” separated from other health data.  “Psychotherapy notes” can ONLY be disclosed with patient permission.
  • -The 2013 amendments to HIPAA require EHRs to enable other situations where data must be segmented and consent is required. For example:
  • -If you pay out-of-pocket for treatment or for a prescription in order to keep your sensitive information private, technology systems must prevent your data from being disclosed to other parties.
  • -After the first time you are contacted by hospital fundraisers who saw your health data, you can opt-out and block the fundraisers from future access to your EHR.

The real problem is current  technology systems and data exchanges are not built to work the way the public expects them to—they violate Americans’ ethical and legal rights to health information privacy.

The public will discover that today’s health technologies and systems have fatal privacy flaws. The unintended consequence of using flawed technology is millions of people will avoid or delay treatment and hide information to keep their health information private and suffer from bad health outcomes.

US health technology should improve health and outcomes, not cause the health of millions to worsen.

How can the US fix the privacy flaws in health technology systems so EHRs and other health technologies can be trusted?