US and Canadian government plans to computerize health records have privacy advocates worried
eHealth systems being developed will contain all of our health records. This information has been a guarded secret between you and your doctor but will soon be available on the internet for any 12 year child with modest computer skills to hack.
The benefits of national or provincial eHealth systems are dubious. All we know is the costs are about $20 billion and the risks to our privacy are unlimited.
The information contains your medical history such as drugs taken, STDs if any, the whole enchilada of your personal life you thought was confidential and normally is by law.
What’s the risk? Millions of medical records have already been lost on stolen laptops, USB cards, and simply hacked off the internet. There is no system that hackers can’t penetrate. Government systems are highly at risk.
“The electronic health record systems that automate the digitized medical histories of U.S. patients are severely at risk of being hacked, a new report has claimed. A fix requires better collaboration between CIOs and vendors,” said Linda Tucci
“There’s no guarantee Albertans’ computerized personal health records can be kept confidential, admits provincial privacy commissioner Frank Work. The privacy guru made that dire diagnosis yesterday as police probe how someone hacked into the Alberta Health Services computer system in Edmonton and had a chance to view and photograph the medical files of 11,582 people.” CanoeNews
There are so many points of entry in an eHealth system that security is full of holes. Doctor’s offices, pharmacists, clinics, hospitals – thousands of people have access to the system. Security experts don’t believe eHealth systems can be protected from hacking or theft of information. Access could be made simply by one person with their access and passwords on a sticky note, left on a counter at home, in a restaurant.
On Prince Edward Island, the eHealth system is a hodgepodge of systems from private developers, consultant customization and government programmers. The system is grossly over budget and a Swiss-cheese of security risks. PEI eHealth system out of control
“Several privacy groups have raised alarms over plans by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to build a database that would contain information about the healthcare claims of millions of Americans,” reportsComputerWorld
“The concerns have surfaced because the OPM has provided few details about the new database and because the data collected will be shared with law enforcement, third-party researchers and others. In a letter
to OPM Director John Berry, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and 15 other organizations asked the agency to release more details on the need for the database and how the data contained in it will be protected and used.” ComputerWorld
This information can be used to compromise employment, pensions, and personal relationships. Before eHealth, government access to your health records was limited to a need-to-know basis. Soon they will be able to check your medical records on some civil servant’s computer. Pharmacy clerks will be able to see your medical records.
Sound far fetched? The Federal government was openly discussing the medical records of Canadian Veterans, especially those who were advocating for better conditions for veterans. Only media and opposition attention got a belated apology.
“The Harper government has formally apologized to one military veteran for the unlawful release of his personal medical records by Veterans Affairs officials, but acknowledges there may be even more cases,” reported The Toronto Star
“I also extend my sincere regrets to anyone who may have gone through the same situation,” Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said Monday as part of his official apology to Sean Bruyea, an outspoken critic of the federal department, whose psychiatric reports were used as part of a political smear campaign.”
Big Brother and 1984 might have just been delayed by 30 years but it will arrive if we don’t protect our privacy.
By Stephen Pate, NJN Network