Top Privacy Researchers Urge the Health Care Industry to Safeguard Patient Data
Privacy, as it pertains to patient data, took center stage at the recent 2022 STAT Health Tech Summit in San Francisco. The event was held one day after the publication of a STAT investigation exposing a multibillion-dollar market for U.S. medical records that is operating on the fringes of federal health privacy protections. Although the information is de-identified and therefore not subject to HIPAA and most other privacy safeguards imposed by the government, technological innovations have made it possible to dissect and cross-reference the data in ways that can actually cause patient harm. For example, Eric Perakslis of the Duke Clinical Research Institute said at the meeting, some patients have been turned away for care or denied insurance coverage based on information payers gleaned from their social media accounts after combining datasets to re-identify them. Perakslis, patient groups, and others say it is time to reexamine how patient data is regulated — possibly even by modernizing or replacing HIPAA, which was established in 1996 before the ubiquitous use of smartphones and social media, which have generated a fountain of personal data.
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