Health Data Privacy and Security: Finding the Right Balance

Real Clear Health has published Pamela Buffone’s article, Health Data Privacy and Security: Finding the Right Balance.

An excerpt below:

Health is a very unsynchronized system. The failure to collaborate and share information is slowing down our ability to find new cures and achieve the goals that we have for patients. It also disrupts the creation of business models to support the health care challenges for our aging population and the coming generations. The health care system needs to be healthy, and right now it’s not.

In need of a remedy is the way the system deals with patient data security and privacy. Every year the Department of Health and Human Services publishes the dollar amounts of settlements with health care organizations that violated HIPAA. The nature of the violations in 2016 and so far this year range from laptops stolen from a hospital employee’s car with patients’ personal information, to a video crew allowed to tape patients without their permission, to sending a press release with a patient’s name in a headline.

Some of the violations involve data security, others data privacy and sometimes a combination. But security and privacy, although related, are also very different concepts whose meanings often get confused. Privacy is more an art than a science. Protecting it requires expertise and tools that are not part of the normal skill sets of an organization. Privacy has an abundance of shades of gray. Each context is different, especially if an organization charged with protecting patient information wants to use that information for secondary purposes, such as research on new therapies for serious diseases. Such uses are lawful as long as patient privacy is protected.

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