Fox News: WikiLeaks case has implications for EMR security

Is it an attempt by a partisan news organization to stir up fear of Big Brother, or are there legitimate concerns about the privacy of EMRs in the age of WikiLeaks? Probably a little bit of both.

"The embarrassing leak of a quarter-million State Department documents by WikiLeaks has recharged the debate over electronic medical records, raising concern that the government may not be capable of safeguarding Americans' most intimate healthcare secrets when their records go digital," Fox News reports. "Doctors and privacy advocates alike are pointing to the havoc wreaked by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and allegedly Bradley Manning, the low-level Army private accused of facilitating it, in arguing that the government needs to slow down its push for digital medical records."

Frankly, this is the first we've heard of the WikiLeaks furor prompting calls for slowing down the federal EMR incentive program, but we'll run with it. "If you think WikiLeaks is bad, this is gonna be WikiLeaks on steroids," Dr. Deborah Peel, founder of the Austin, Texas-based Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, said. Peel, a well-known figure among those who follow health IT, argues that current EMR security isn't up to snuff--particularly from her perspective as a psychiatrist--making "everything from prescription records to your DNA" potentially accessible to hackers and healthcare workers with a grudge against an organization. "Once it's out, it's out," Peel says about health information.

"Even the most top-secret things can't be kept secret," adds Dr. Alieta Eck, who runs a safety-net clinic near Edison, N.J., with her husband. According to Fox, Eck will keep an EMR, but won't seek federal incentive payments for "meaningful use" because she's worried about how data sharing could ruin the trust she's built up with her patients.

"What WikiLeaks shows you is how security information is all about the integrity of individuals," says Twila Brase, president of the Citizens' Council for Health Freedom. "Once you get information on any kind of electronic format, it is very easy to take it, to access it, to share it, to download it." Brase's group, formerly called the Citizens' Council on Health Care, advocates for limited government involvement and calls itself "a free-market resource for designing the future of healthcare."

Fox does not quote any IT professionals in the story.

For more:
- read this Fox News story