EHRs may change concepts of patient privacy protection

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The rise in electronic health record use, coupled with the new ease of ultra cheap electronic data collection and processing capabilities, is fundamentally changing the concept of privacy of patient health data, according to an editorial published in a recent special patient privacy edition of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The authors note that privacy currently is a major concern and that the changes in data availability and collection--now that so much data is in electronic format--may cause the industry to revisit current privacy protections and expectations.

For instance, more care organizations are gravitating to cloud computing, storing patient data in places beyond the their direct control and oversight (and possibly even overseas). However, social-technical protections can be defined for this emerging system, and a diverse number of stakeholders are working on solutions to protect this information in the cloud, according to the authors.

"Advances in informatics that may be eroding individuals' control over their information are being countered by advances in privacy enhancing technologies, as well as regulatory and policy changes that give individuals back control over their information," they state.

The privacy of electronic patient data is top of mind in the healthcare industry, as it moves into the more advanced stages of Meaningful Use and the number of data breaches skyrockets. More than 500 entities now have reported breaches of 500 patient records or more, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' "wall of shame."   

To learn more:
- here's the editorial

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