Ensuring the Health of Patient Privacy


Healthcare has been in the news a lot lately, with the government promising healthcare reform and setting aside $20 billion for healthcare IT in the HITECH Act portion of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

A key provision in the HITECH Act is the development of a nationwide health information technology infrastructure that allows for the electronic use and exchange of patient information. Policy makers and healthcare industry stakeholders agree that creating such a network will create efficiencies and contribute to higher quality health outcomes for patients nationwide.

But the promise of electronic health records also creates security and privacy risks. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) addresses health information security and privacy issues and the HITECH Act expands HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules to address the risks inherent in proliferating online medical records. The Act also adds a security breach notification provision.

We have all seen the stories in the news about celebrity health information privacy breaches. Just ask Britney Spears and George Clooney or most recently the “Octomom.” Some industry experts suggest that such breaches are most often the work of insiders in as many as 90 percent of the cases, as noted in a recent article in Healthcare IT News.

For such insider breaches of privacy, hospitals that use HID Global’s technology for physical access control have a cost-effective solution at their fingertips - literally. The card that employees are carrying to access the hospital and areas within the hospital can also be used to control access to a hospital’s operating system.

Combining physical and logical access control can help hospitals protect patient privacy and comply with the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rule. And the infrastructure is already in place at many hospitals. With the move toward a nationwide network of electronic medical records in a constrained economic environment, it’s an obvious and easy solution.