Privacy Advisor

Notes from the Executive Director

July 1, 2008

Healthcare Privacy

Healthcare technology. Presidential candidates are being questioned about it, vendors are coming to market with products and hospitals, doctors and insurers are implementing it. All while privacy professionals work to stay a few steps ahead of the inevitable next big thing.
In 2004, the White House issued an executive order calling for universal Electronic Health Records (EHR) for all American citizens by 2014. This means that in less than six years, healthcare providers must offer patients electronic access to their medical records.
This month, the state of South Carolina moved a step in that direction, migrating the medical histories of all of its Medicaid users into an online health information database that enables doctors and clinics to access patient information on the fly. It's a move that is expected to improve care, but it is not without privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, commercial interests have launched some of the first personal health record products. Many are watching to see how consumers respond to these mostly free offerings, particularly given that commercial enterprises are not subject to the privacy rules laid out by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which ensure the confidentiality of citizens' medical data.

As with any paradigm shift, the migration towards electronic and personal health records raises many considerations. Rapid technological advancements threaten to outpace our abilities as privacy professionals to stay astream. The field keeps changing.

There is no one answer that will solve the important and myriad privacy-related questions that arise as healthcare technology moves into our homes, hospitals and healthcare offices. But there is plenty to discover.

This month's Privacy Advisor looks at a few major areas of concern to privacy professionals. In his article, "The New Healthcare Privacy Debate," Kirk Nahra outlines the top questions to be considered as electronic health records, personal health records and health information exchanges gain traction in the marketplace. Annie Lindstrom speaks with CPOs, healthcare officers and government officials about the HIPAA privacy rules on the occasion of their fifth anniversary. And Lucy Thompson sheds light on the personal health record offerings of Google, Microsoft and Revolution Health.

As always, I hope you find these articles enlightening and useful in your world.
For those of you at an easy distance to Boston, Kirk will present more on electronic health records at our free August 5 KnowledgeNet event. If you've never joined us for a KnowledgeNet before, consider attending this one at the John Hancock Tower. For more information, go to the Web site www.privacyassociation.org and click on "Network." Hope to see you there!


J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP
Executive Director, IAPP


J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP
Executive Director, IAPP