Monday, June 05, 2006

Who is Reading Your Medical File?

Liu, a radiology resident at UC San Diego Medical Center, scanned through shots of the patient's kidneys, noting the abnormal fluid around one.

It wasn't long before the phone rang. A fax had arrived.

"That's NightHawk," Liu said.

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. He functioned as a nighttime supervisor a world away, and through the fax confirmed her preliminary diagnosis: The patient's kidney had a small tear.

This is not Star Trek but reality.

In an effort to hold down costs, hospitals and other medical practices are outsourcing certain functions half way around the globe.

A little known side effect, and one that is rarely debated, is the privacy issues. Most are aware of the privacy laws that come as part of HIPAA but few stop to think about how much of that law is lost once your medical information leaves the shores of the United States. Once your medical information travels to Australia, India or wherever you basically lose your HIPAA rights.

Over the next few years I wonder how many court cases will occur as a result of PHI (protected health information) being leaked as a result of foreign outsourcing.
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