Risk
12/15/2009
02:13 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Government Grapples With EMR Security, Privacy

Healthcare providers aren't stepping up to protect privacy of electronic medical records. Can the government provide adequate data security?

While electronic medical records promise massive opportunities for health benefits, the privacy and security risks are equally enormous.

The Obama administration has set an ambitious goal -- to get electronic medical records on file for every American by 2014. The administration is offering powerful incentives: $20 billion for EMRs included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and stiff Medicare penalties for healthcare providers that fail to implement EMRs after 2014.

EMRs offer huge benefits: Improved efficiency by eliminating tons of paper files in every doctor's office, and improved medical care using the same kinds of database and data mining technologies that are now routine in other industries. EMR systems can flag symptoms and potentially harmful drug interactions that busy doctors might otherwise miss.

But the privacy and security threats are massive as well. When completed, the nation's EMR infrastructure will be a massive store of every American's most personal, private information, potentially abused by marketers, identity thieves, and unscrupulous employers and insurance companies.

Unlocking Benefits, Minimizing Risks

Regulators are attempting to craft rules that would unlock the benefits of EMRs while protecting Americans from the security risks. Healthcare IT pros will be required to implement systems and business processes that conform to these regulations or face lost funding, institutional fines, and even -- in some cases -- personal criminal penalties.

The new regulations come as the healthcare industry faces big privacy problems, going back years. In 2003, a medical transcriptionist in Pakistan threatened to post patient records from the University of California San Francisco's Medical Center on the Internet unless she was paid for her work for a transcription service company hired by the university. The dispute was resolved but many patients were shocked to learn that their records were being sent overseas.

In another breach, two computers that held a disc containing the confidential records of close to 200,000 patients of a medical group in San Jose, Calif., were posted for sale on Craigslist.org. The FBI recovered the information and the medical group informed current and former patients of the theft, according to a 2006 report in the HIPAA Bulletin.

Celebrities aren't immune. Last year, more than a dozen staff at the UCLA Medical Center faced disciplinary charges for prying into the medical records of Britney Spears. The same hospital got in trouble again when employees accessed Farrah Fawcett's medical records after she went there for cancer treatments.

Previous
1 of 3
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Flash Poll
Current Issue
Cartoon
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-4725
Published: 2014-07-27
The MailPoet Newsletters (wysija-newsletters) plugin before 2.6.7 for WordPress allows remote attackers to bypass authentication and execute arbitrary PHP code by uploading a crafted theme using wp-admin/admin-post.php and accessing the theme in wp-content/uploads/wysija/themes/mailp/.

CVE-2014-4726
Published: 2014-07-27
Unspecified vulnerability in the MailPoet Newsletters (wysija-newsletters) plugin before 2.6.8 for WordPress has unspecified impact and attack vectors.

CVE-2014-2363
Published: 2014-07-26
Morpho Itemiser 3 8.17 has hardcoded administrative credentials, which makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain access via a login request.

CVE-2014-2625
Published: 2014-07-26
Directory traversal vulnerability in the storedNtxFile function in HP Network Virtualization 8.6 (aka Shunra Network Virtualization) allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via crafted input, aka ZDI-CAN-2023.

CVE-2014-2626
Published: 2014-07-26
Directory traversal vulnerability in the toServerObject function in HP Network Virtualization 8.6 (aka Shunra Network Virtualization) allows remote attackers to create files, and consequently execute arbitrary code, via crafted input, aka ZDI-CAN-2024.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Sara Peters hosts a conversation on Botnets and those who fight them.