Medical Record Privacy?

If you’ve had medical care recently, you and your medical and other private information are now on a medical provider computer. Are your records safe? Well, don’t be too sure.

From the Orange County Register, reporters note that thieves, hackers and careless workers have breached the medical privacy of nearly 32 million Americans.

Those numbers, taken from new U.S. Health & Human Services Department data, underscore a vulnerability of electronic health records.

Medical records contain sensitive information patients would be horrified to share, alcohol and drugs, use, psychiatric problems, etc.

Despite ever-tighter federal regulations, “we recognize that sometimes security is still compromised,” said Dr. Jacob Reider, HHS’ deputy national coordinator for information technology. The government promotes online privacy and most of the breaches have resulted from not following the guidance. The government is imposing big fines on insurers, hospitals or doctors that lose control of records. In May, HHS levied a record $4.8 million penalty against New York-Presbyterian Hospital and its partner, Columbia University. The grounds: In September 2010, some 6,800 patients’ records were accidentally exposed to Internet search engines.

The sheer volume of information, encrypted or not, is just too tempting for hackers.