Security fears over electronic patient records blown out of proportion

Most would probably say, “This is too much information; why are you telling me this?”So what’s with the near obsession with security of medical information? Sure, health care organizations must be diligent in taking precautions to ensure medical information is disseminated only to those who need to know, but the need for privacy must be balanced with the requirement to ensure practitioners have access to all relevant information on a patient. The risk of a hacker accessing patient data must be weighed against the risk of a doctor giving an unconscious (or forgetful) patient drugs to which he or she has had an adverse reaction in the past.
Why can’t the government encourage the creating of electronic patient records, accessible over wired and wireless networks, with the stipulation that standard IT security protocols be implemented? No network security protocol is completely airtight, but it seems the prospect of even one security breach is putting the kybosh on all efforts to implement a paperless health record.
One hospital rolled out a wireless e-mail system, but its privacy officer has restricted its use to back-office applications, rather than to exchanging patient information (please see page 9).
When you’re transmitting information over wireless networks, the opportunity for snooping increases, but whether you’re using cellular or Wi-Fi networks, there are technologies available that will prevent almost all hackers from getting access. So yes, a hacker could, in theory, get access, but it’s time to put medical records into perspective. Chances are, the only lucrative piece of information on your medical file is your date of birth, because that can be used to initiate an identity theft. Nothing else is useful to a hacker and even if it is, how likely is it that a hacker is going to spend several thousand dollars on sophisticated hardware and software to get the results of your urine sample, when he can break into a doctor’s filing cabinet with a $30 sledge hammer?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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