Spurned by doctors, electronic health records pose security concerns

June 1, 2015

Electronic health record technology is generating lots of data, as Senior Technical Editor Tom Lecklider pointed out in a recent article. The vast amount of data is causing significant security concerns, writes Arthur Allen today in Politico in an article titled “Health care spending billions to protect the records it spent billions to install.”

As many as one-third of Americans have had their medical records hacked, he writes, adding that the black market value of a healthcare record is up to $50—ten times that of a stolen credit-card number—and each hacked record could cost companies $20 to clean up. Allen cites estimates that $2 billion in health-related cyberinsurance was sold last year, with the market growing 20% to 25% per year.

Congress is stepping in with bills that would urge companies to share threat information. Allen quotes cybersecurity expert Lisa Gallagher from HIMSS as saying companies should be spending at least 10% of their IT budgets on security, although the industry-wide average is just 3%. Companies looking to cash in on increased spending in this area include firms like Symantec and Northrup Grumman, who have new or enlarged healthcare divisions, Allen writes.

Then there is the issue of doctors not much liking electronic health records, which I have commented on before. Physician-turned-commentator Charles Krauthammer elaborates on this in a recent column in the Washington Post. He writes that the EHR mandate produces billing and legal documents as well as degraded medicine. He quotes a former medical-school classmate as saying, “The introduction of the electronic medical record into our office has created so much more need for documentation that I can only see about three-quarters of the patients I could before, and has prompted me to seriously consider leaving for the first time.”

Krauthammer is not completely opposed to EHR—he believes individual practitioners were already adopting it on their own, organically as the technology evolved and the price became tolerable.

Krauthammer argues that banking is electronic because banks deal with nothing but data. But as Agilent Technologies CTO Darlene Solomon pointed out in a recent interview, over the last 20 years, biology has transitioned from a qualitative descriptive science to an increasingly quantitative one. And electronic health data collected today could yield a big payoff in the future when exploited by data scientists in furtherance of medical advances.

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