Skip to comments.A Risky Rx for Your Digital Records
Posted on 06/20/2012 8:10:04 AM PDT by shove_it
Lured by huge incentives, doctors are rushing to digitize your medical files. The move, though, might have some nasty side effects for patients.
Few health care trends have gotten as much press of late as the mad rush into electronic health records. Physicians, driven by the promise of better care, cost savings and nearly $23 billion in new federal incentive payments, are racing to turn their scribbled medical records into digital files. Thirty-five percent of hospitals now use such systems, more than double the share two years ago, according to U.S. government figures. But for all the hype about electronic records, little attention has been paid to what some say is a serious weak spot: When those sensitive bits and bytes fall into the wrong hands, it's often patients who feel the pain.
Since 2009, there have been more than 420 security breaches involving the records of some 19 million patients, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights. And such breaches are on the rise. A December 2011 report by the Ponemon Institute, a security-research firm, found that the frequency of data losses and thefts among health care organizations increased 32 percent over the previous year.
With studies so far focused nearly exclusively on the impact of such losses on health care providers, the cost to consumers has been largely ignored -- a fact some experts find mind-boggling. "There's more financial damage that can be created from your health insurance information than a credit card number," says Rick Kam, president of ID Experts, a data-privacy consulting firm. A medical identity thief, for example, might use a stolen insurance card to submit false claims in order to get cash back -- which can cause the real insurance holder to be saddled with a higher insurance premium, or even left on the hook for fraudulent medical bills. And unlike the case with credit cards, says Harry Rhodes, director of practice leadership for the American Health Information Management Association, there are no industry measures to limit consumer liability in medical-record fraud. Of still greater concern are the potential health consequences: If a thief uses stolen data to obtain medical care for himself, his health information is automatically merged into the electronic file, Rhodes says. The result could be grave to the original patient if he or she has a serious medication allergy or if a new medical diagnosis suddenly changes a care regimen.
Given the stakes, experts like Deven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy & Technology in Washington, D.C., advise consumers to guard their health insurance cards the way they would their credit cards and to carefully review their statements of insurance benefits. Beyond that, pros say, patients should ask their doctors how sensitive data is being protected. After all, says Larry Ponemon, chairman of the Ponemon Institute, "Patients' lives depend on it."
If I can securely do my banking and brokerage online, my digitized medical records can be secure too. Health-care apologists don’t like digitization because by making medical records easier to transfer, it threatens their monopoly.
And id a thief gets our digital medical file, they also get our Social Security number as well.
Sigh. “id” should be “if.”
HIPAA is the prototype bureaucratic boondoggle. 420 breaches in 19 million is 0.0000221%. How much real damage was done by those breaches? It’s out of control bureaucracy that grows every year. More government union jobs created to make more rules it can enforce so they can create more government jobs to enforce them. More and more money diverted from actual health care to pay pencil-pushers for useless crap. How big a problem was all of this 15 years ago before HIPAA? It wasn’t a problem. It’s a government bogeyman that an “expert” from an identity security firm in this article (looking to cash in ) tells us is a huge problem. I could go on.
That is the truth...I am an accountant..everyone in my profession is pretty much against the fair tax. I do mostly corporate stuff(audit Fortune 500 co's) and there is a big push there to not makes things too easy lest we be out of a job.
Just went to a Urgent Care facility for a sore throat. Doc came in with a ipad type device-said he loved the electronic records. Asked me what pharmacy I used..I told him and when I went there my prescription was waiting..he sent it over online. No paper.
Some health-care apologists dont like digitization because by making medical records easier to transfer, it makes your entire history and personal identity, from womb to tomb, available to Big Brother's database in the sky, at the click of a button.
When digitization becomes mandatory, I will leave medicine. I cannot in good conscience give all my patients' private data to Big Brother.
The 420 system breaches resulted in the disclosure of 19 million sets of patients’ records to hackers.
In just 2 system breaches at Atlanta hospitals, over 225,000 records were compromised.
I can give you all another headache:
Years ago, I worked for a major recording studio/record company.
At that time, they wanted to go into the cd’s.
They could not get long term holding performance out of the plastic units.
Within 5 years, they would start to break down & lose bytes of info, often very much sooner.
I don’t know what the shelf life of today’s CD’s and other electronic storage is, but I won’t depend upon it for anything I care about.
I have pictures of my grandfather- who died in 1927 or so on paper in plain old black and white & I don’t intend to ever change that. I have lots of other photos from my life.
I actually know a person who took about the equivalent of 4 ‘banker’s boxes’ of various pictures-—from great grand parents, all the way to today’s grandchildren & everything in between and put them all onto CD’s.
Then instead of just carefully storing the boxes, she actually BURNED everything-—said she never needed tham again.
I didn’t tell her about what I knew from where I had worked. The deed was done!
God Bless You for your fortitude.
I'm more concerned about the records being held in third-party hands. If my doctor is asked by some government bureaucrat to hand over my written records, he's likely to say "And you reason for wanting the records is?". A third-party datastore will just say "here". More likely, they will have electronic portals where law enforcement, IRS, and whoever can just grab the data.
Electronic health records will also make it easier for the DemocRATs to “leak” info on anyone that opposes them.
In the single payer workers paradise ALL records will be accessed for review by the bureaucratic "health panels" in DC. Every diagnosis and treatment is coded for their database and will be prioritized for funding. Also age and demographics will be part of the "health care" matrix to determine funding for "approved" care. Digitalization is intended to bring every medical record in the country under an obama like czar who really knows whats best for the working man and his subservient "provider". I always hate to hear "provider" instead of doctor.
Nurse: 'This is really good. You'll be able to see all your records on-line any time you want'.And I'll decline again if 'asked' when I go back on July 9th.
Me: 'And so will the Government, or any Hacker who may get mad at you. So no thanks'.
Problem is, paper burns or can be destroyed by water.
The best back-up strategy is 3-2-1.
2 types of media
For all of my digitized family documents and photos, I have the following:
1 copy on my iMac.
1 copy on Time Machine backup on the other side of the house (where my cable modem / Time Machine are located.
1 copy uploaded to my web host.
1 Weekly backup to external bare drives in my office 65 miles from my house. Rotated each monday, new backup comes in, older drive goes back home.
All automated. And all secure.
No different than Credit Reports, and those can be impossible to work out. But, in that case, you are not the customer, the banks / credit grantors are, so the average Joe is out of luck.
Your SSN is all over the place. There are other avenues to get a SSN compromised. Band, Credit Report, etc.
Having lived in several states over my lifetime, and seen many doctors, I took up a project to collect ALL of my medical records with my current doctor back when I turned 40.
The electronic collection and aggregation of this data could make a real difference in life-or-death situations where you would be unable to speak for yourself.
As an example, I just had my ankle rebuilt. My surgeon was able to call up the last x-ray from the computer in the office from the lab several miles away. When I had the procedure done, everything was at the surgical center. Then when I went back for my post-procedure follow-up, all the notes from the procedure were back in the electronic case file. When I went back to the hospital, the Physical Therapy have access to everything to design my rehab program for my ankle. At my 30 day follow-up, the new data on my rehab progress was made immediately available from the PT practice to the Dr.
People may be worried, as expressed here on the thread. People were also worried that the issuance of SSNs were equal to “the mark of the devil”.
“When digitization becomes mandatory, I will leave medicine.”
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, buddy.
Whenever my wife signs up with another one of the many specialists to which she has been referred, we have to sit down, pick up pens and scratch our way through yet another one of those infernal paper histories, which will then become part of that wall of paper records behind the receptionist’s station. Every other business in the 21st Century keeps its core data in servers, instantly accessible to whoever may need it.
Every time we sit down in a doctor’s office with that thick pad of history forms to go through, we have to remember how old we were when we got chicken pox or whether a great-grandmother had lupus. It’s not my place to determine how relevant that information is, but one of our lives may one day possibly depend on its accuracy. In building any database, there is a fundamental rule that each piece of information be captured once, and then not forgotten. Each time we have to keep regurgitating the same old data, there an increased chance that we will get it wrong. Your beloved haystack of paper conceals who-knows-how many needles of inaccuracy?
If electronic records are Big Brother, he already has access to every other aspect of our lives. I will jump for joy the day each new doctor can pull our records from an online jacket with the same ease that I can pay bills on my bank’s website from Germany.