Vol. 106 February 1, 2014 Do You Know Where Your Medical Data Is?


The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

                                                                                  –Thomas Jefferson…or Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln,
Dr. Thomas Sowell,  and John Philpot Curran.

The federal government is giving money to doctors and hospitals to computerize their medical records ( “EMR” = electronic medical records). To get paid the medical providers have to show “meaningful use” of EMR by, among other things, writing and sending a certain percentage of their prescriptions to pharmacies by computer , by creating interactive websites (“Patient Portals”) to improve patient access to their medical information , and by entering much more of their patient’s personal data into their computers. The improved coordination of care, collaboration of medical providers, and reduced costs of care through the meaningful use of EMR by Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) is a cherished hope of Obamacare (ACA) supporters.

Recently, another arm of the federal government (NSA = National Security Agency) has been shown to be collecting, and maybe analyzing, huge reams of personal data from our telephones, social network sites, and credit card companies. Facebook, Google, and Verizon have all been put on the defensive and are scrambling to show that they weren’t helping, at least “knowingly helping”, the government do this. Wired magazine recently reviewed how this conflict between the government’s promises of security and the internet giants’ promises of privacy is eroding the public trust in both.

So at a time that our government is aggressively incentivizing medical providers to put more and more patients’ personal data into cyberspace, the public’s faith and trust that such data will be safe and not be misused is weakening.

What’s the worry? How bad could it get? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I direct you to this 3 minute video on how to order a pizza in 2015. Whether you find it believable or not,  or whether you think that 2025 is a more realistic date, you may rest assured that the NSA will know that you clicked on and viewed it.

1. “How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet”, Wired, January 2014
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2DY6jWT2a4  “How to Order a Pizza in 2015”

5 Responses to Vol. 106 February 1, 2014 Do You Know Where Your Medical Data Is?

  1. carolyn russett says:

    That video is HYSTERICAL!!!!!! very sad…but probably true!

  2. Let’s be clear about something. Putting patient records into EMR doesn’t make them less secure. They are encrypted, and have passwords. Anyone who accesses them, including unsuccessful attempts, leaves a trail. It’s more secure than having patient info in English on paper charts where anyone who got hold of them could read and copy them. It’s not like phone calls, which can be gathered by automatic programs from transmission.

    Besides reducing cost and improving care coordination, it improves care outcomes, because making cross-referenced charts from different providers easier to compare prevents medication errors caused by prescribing drugs that interact in dangerous ways.

    • hubslist says:

      I too believe taht implementation of EMR will improve quality and may reduce total costs of care. “Encryption of data” is the standard response to any question about the security of medical data. This paragraph from the Wired article cited in my blog generates some doubt about considering encryption as the perfect bastion of privacy:

      “But even strong encryption won’t necessarily keep out the NSA…[in view of] the agency’s spectacular recent success in cracking popular forms of cryptography. The tactics include using purloined or company-supplied keys to decode all the messages of a major Internet service and exploiting unreported vulnerabilities in software systems. Some documents raised the possibility—already suspected by some in the crypto community—that the NSA helped promote weak encryption standards that it knows how to crack. It is a well-known principle of cybersecurity that any flaw will eventually be discovered and exploited. If in fact the NSA was not reporting known security holes, then it risked exposing domestic information and secrets to evildoers. It may even have allowed foreign govern­ments to snatch high-value cor­porate secrets.”

      • Fine, it isn’t perfect. It’s still better than a paper chart in English, which equals no kind of protection at all aside from having the chart cover closed. Anyone that looks will have the info. And it’s easier for a person with bad intent to get into a file room, than to locate and open a numbered, encrypted file.

  3. WB Smith says:

    Right wing, Tea Party demagoguery!!! We should always trust our government, well maybe we should trust our government, okay, sometimes we should trust our government.. well maybe we should , oh you know…No, I do not want my doctor to put photos of my anal sphincter and cyst on the internet and thus into the cloud for other to observe.. to say nothing of my penile implant.. Keep up the good work Hub

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