Tuesday, August 23, 2011

How safe are your medical records? Are you sure?

It's a bit startling to consider, but we began blogging about the relative safety of medical records over 5 years ago:

"In a time zone 17 hours ahead, a radiologist in Australia, working for a company called NightHawk Radiology Services, had been sitting before the same images."

More recently, we noted that the MVNHS© had put the kibosh on their latest and greatest:

"A plan to create the world's largest single civilian computer system linking all parts of the National Health Service is to be abandoned by the Government"

The Brits were unable to justify the huge sums of money already sunk into that doomed effort, let alone throwing in even more. But there's a more pressing issue than just funding: just how safe is the information being stored in these data warehouses?

Why so serious, Henry?


"Until recently, medical files belonging to nearly 300,000 Californians sat unsecured on the Internet for the entire world to see ... Among the files were summaries that spelled out, in painstaking detail, a trucker's crushed fingers, a maintenance worker's broken ribs and one man's bout with sexual dysfunction."

More ooopsies.

Our co-blogger Kelley B (herself a Certified Medical Office Manager), has told me that the gummint has in place special funding incentives to get providers to move to electronic records-keeping. Early adopters are eligible for thousands (often tens of thousands) of dollars in "free money" if they opt for new data storage systems.

But is this "rush to adopt" really a good thing?

The benefits of this brave new world are touted as increased efficiency and better patient outcomes, but I've seen scant evidence of either - at least no direct links controlled for other factors. Which is not to say that such do not exist, but if that's truly the case, show me the data.

One of my favorite computer aphorisms is "garbage in, garbage out;" which is to say, these systems are subject to human error at any number of stages. I'm no Luddite, and I can see where there are certainly efficiencies in moving away from paper-based files, but I'm not convinced that these replacement systems are a step forward.
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