Home > Property & Casualty > WikiLeaks scandal recharges debate over EMR and protecting healthcare secrets

WikiLeaks scandal recharges debate over EMR and protecting healthcare secrets

The issue of data security has become a hot topic in nearly every media and news outlet with the international embarrassment and diplomacy crisis brought on by WikiLeaks. As the media advocate for open secrets, the concerns over privacy and electronic data security have again become a high priority.  Nowhere is this generating more interest and concern than within the healthcare field.

“The embarrassing leak of a quarter-million State Department documents by WikiLeaks has recharged the debate over electronic medical records, raising concern that the government may not be capable of safeguarding Americans’ most intimate healthcare secrets when their records go digital,” was reported on Fox News last week.

“If you think WikiLeaks is bad, this is gonna be WikiLeaks on steroids,” Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the Austin, Texas-based Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, said. Peel, a well-known figure among those who follow health IT, argues that current EMR security isn’t up to snuff–particularly from her perspective as a psychiatrist–making “everything from prescription records to your DNA” potentially accessible to hackers and healthcare workers with a grudge against an organization. “Once it’s out, it’s out,” Peel says about health information.

All of the alarm surrounding the security of electronic medical records also raises some key risk management concerns. By way of example, if a medical provider declines to utilize EMR for their practice, would they be subject to greater malpractice liability if it can be argued that the failure to use or access EMR somehow lead to a “bad outcome” in the treatment of a patient? On one hand, the practitioner is acting in good faith to protect a patient’s privacy by not using EMRs. On the other hand, as is often argued in the media, would the use of EMR to more comprehensive and better medical care?

I suspect, like computers in the class room that were suppose to lead to an education revolution, EMR can not possibly live up to the “hype” surrounding it. I believe there is little question that EMRs can give medical providers access to more important information in order to provide the very best in medical care. But the definition of “the very best care” will most likely remain in the hands of the recipient of that care. 

(Read more: Fox News: WikiLeaks case has implications for EMR security – FierceEMR)

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  1. December 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Very good points. This is exactly why internet-based EHR systems that use cloud computing instead of having a server that sits in the doctor’s office is the safest way to go. For information, watch this podcast: http://www.nuesoft.com/news-events/podcast/ehr-practice-management-software-data-security.html

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