By Dr. Kenneth Rothaus, M.D.
Stories about hospitals and other healthcare facilities data being stolen abound. Hundreds of thousands of social security numbers are stolen from the IRS. Russian hackers are reportedly responsible for breaking into the servers of the Democratic National Committee. The release of purloined emails is alleged to be timed to influence the current Presidential election.
Now the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society is lobbying Congress to lift a ban on the creation of a national identifier for health information. Currently, the technique used requires matching multiple identifiers: first and last name, date of birth, patient’s sex, etc. The proponents of a national identifier number claim it would save time and be safer. If true, that would be good.
They also claim that the current systems hinders effective healthcare information exchange. Currently, the medical providers have to actually speak to the patient, review their demographics and make sure they match. Under the proposed system, someone will enter into a computer your number and a computer will match the numbers and print the results at your doctor’s office or hospital.
My concerns are multiple. As implied above, what about security? I think that the concerns about security of sensitive information are significant enough at the current time that I personally would prefer a little decentralization of my patient’s healthcare information. Secondly, currently multiple identifiers must be matched to identify a medical result with a given patient. Under the proposed system, it will just be a number which we all know can be misread, mis-entered, miscopied, etc.
Until I feel secure about hackers from Russia and China not being able to steal vital data from servers containing sensitive healthcare information, I think that I would leave well enough alone! How do you feel about this initiative?Leave a reply →