Is HIPAA as it currently stands really up to the task of protecting patient information as it should in its current form? After all despite a few revisions the majority of the legislation dates back to 1996, a time when the Internet was a novelty not an everyday part of almost everybody’s’ lives.
The simple fact is that barely a week goes by when the efficacy of the current HIPAA privacy paradigm in the new information age isn’t called into question by someone . For example:
In 2009 , a number of parents sued the Texas Department of State Health Services when they learned blood samples taken from infants for public health purposes, were used without parental consent for research. The suit finally led to the destruction of more than 5 million samples.
In February of 2010 , the not-for-profit news website Texas Tribune reported the same state program also provided hundreds of the infant blood samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory for the creation of a genetics database to be used for military, law enforcement and security purposes, causing further uproar.
In May of 2010 , PatientsLikeMe, a social-networking site for patients with serious and life-ending diseases ranging from depression to ALS, discovered, according to its co-founder, that it had been scraped of members’ information by an unauthorized data-collection service run by the Nielsen Co, the famous global marketing research firm. A Nielsen spokesman says it has since halted what he called a “legacy” practice.
Examples like this can be citied on and on. Issues such as these simply would not have existed in 1996 so never needed to be considered.
Deborah Peel is the practicing psychiatrist who founded the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation in Austin, Texas. To Peel, the HIPAA paradigm is obsolete and inadequate and needs to be replaced.
“You can’t draw a fence around who has sensitive health information,” Peel said in a recent interview with Modern Healthcare. “It might have made sense 20 years ago, but it is a model that doesn’t fit the realities of today. It’s based on an anachronistic view of the healthcare system, as if it’s totally separate from everything else in business and in life, and if technology has taught us anything, it’s that that’s not effective.”
What do you think? What would you see changed about the HIPPA statutes in the Internet age? Let us know in the comments.