Risk
10/3/2012
12:48 PM
50%
50%

Health IT Offers Safe Haven In A Storm

Government report offers an action plan to protect access to medical records in case of a hurricane, tornado, or other disaster.

Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps
Uncle Sam Shares 12 Top Health Apps
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Personal health records, electronic health records, and health information exchanges could all play key roles in response and recovery efforts during and after a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or a tornado, according to a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC).

The report focuses on the health IT capabilities of six southern states--Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas--that are often subject to these kinds of natural disasters. The Southeast Regional HIT-HIE Collaboration (SERCH), which prepared the report for ONC, included representatives of all these states.

"The consortium's goal was to develop a strategic plan for sharing health information data among the Southeast and Gulf States during and following a declared natural disaster," explained Lee Stevens, policy director of the ONC's state HIE program, writing on the office's HealthIT Buzz Blog.

The report includes an "actionable plan" for preserving access to health records and makes suggestions that can support progress in the absence of "routine, widespread health information exchange," Stevens said.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

One suggestion is to explore the potential of personal health records (PHRs), which are Web-based repositories of medical information under patients' control. Some PHRs include a subset of EHR data or claims-based medical histories from insurance companies. Such a PHR is referred to as "tethered" because it is tied to a particular provider's electronic health record (EHR) or to a particular insurer. "The ability to access a tethered PHR could be critical following a disaster because it offers an immediate pathway to patient records," the report noted.

"Untethered" PHRs, such as those provided by Microsoft Healthvault and Dossia, could also be valuable because they are Web-based, the SERCH document stated. But it cautioned that clinicians must distinguish between the clinical data and the patient-entered data in such PHRs.

EHRs of the older, client-server variety would not be of much use in a disaster, the report said. But an increasing percentage of newer EHRs are Web-based. The databases are stored remotely and "often have redundancy and business continuity capabilities far exceeding the typical clinical enterprise," the report pointed out.

Finally, health information exchanges (HIE) may be of use in a disaster as they become more sophisticated. Some HIEs, the report said, are structured to push information from one place to another, such as exchanges that deliver hospital reports and results to doctors. Other HIEs allow clinicians to query systems and pull pertinent patient records. As the latter grow and spread, the report said, "they increase the potential availability of information in a disaster."

However, in most of the SERCH states, statewide HIEs were still fairly limited and interstate health data exchange was minimal or nonexistent.

Among the report's recommendations for public and private organizations seeking to exchange electronic health information during a disaster are these:

-- Understand the state's disaster response policies and align with the state agency designed for emergency support before the disaster.

-- Develop standard procedures to share electronic health information across state lines.

-- Consider enacting a "mutual aid memorandum of understanding" to establish a waiver of liability for the release of records when an emergency is declared.

-- Assess the state's availability of public and private health information sources and the ability to electronically share the data using HIEs and other health data-sharing entities.

-- Consider a phased approach to establishing interstate electronic health information-sharing capabilities.

Taken together, these recommendations establish a roadmap for other states that want to combine health IT with disaster planning, Stevens said. "Combining these two important healthcare functions will help ensure that when a disaster strikes, patients and providers will have better access to information and providers will be better able to provide appropriate care."

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
jaysimmons
50%
50%
jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/7/2012 | 3:34:50 AM
re: Health IT Offers Safe Haven In A Storm
Yet another way EHRs are positively impacting patient care! It's great that people are now thinking about how to better take care of patients in natural disasters. I hope that one day we get to the place where we don't have to worry about what happens to our records when there is an emergency.
Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading, January 2015
To find and fix exploits aimed directly at your business, stop waiting for alerts and become a proactive hunter.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7402
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in request.c in c-icap 0.2.x allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) via a crafted ICAP request.

CVE-2014-5437
Published: 2014-12-17
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that (1) enable remote management via a request to remote_management.php,...

CVE-2014-5438
Published: 2014-12-17
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in ARRIS Touchstone TG862G/CT Telephony Gateway with firmware 7.6.59S.CT and earlier allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the computer_name parameter to connected_devices_computers_edit.php.

CVE-2014-7170
Published: 2014-12-17
Race condition in Puppet Server 0.2.0 allows local users to obtain sensitive information by accessing it in between package installation or upgrade and the start of the service.

CVE-2014-7285
Published: 2014-12-17
The management console on the Symantec Web Gateway (SWG) appliance before 5.2.2 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary OS commands by injecting command strings into unspecified PHP scripts.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.