Patient portals raise concerns for data privacy, security

As more health data becomes available, many issues will arise regarding patient security and privacy of information, Micky Tripathi tells Healthcare Information Security in an interview.

One of the biggest privacy issues, according to Tripathi, who co-chairs the Privacy and Security Tiger Team, which advises the HIT Policy Committee of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, is sharing of patient information on patient portals--and who has access to what data through them.

Tripathi also serves as president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

While there are no national standards or guidelines on portals, he says that his team is trying to offer best practice suggestions and has asked ONC to provide best practice guidelines to help providers in that area.

Tripathi points to minors' information as one of the areas for biggest privacy concern. Depending on a child's age, their condition and the state in which they receive care, they have the right to keep certain information private from their parents.

Because of that, he says, questions remain over how a patient portal can allow parents to be part of the information flow, while still respecting the child's rights. The Tiger Team is actually set to look at complexities involving minors' electronic records at its meeting July 14.

Tripathi added that the elderly also are affected by this problem, as many give family or friends access to their health information, but may want some data to remain private.

He also said statutes would need to be changed in relation to information sharing. Tripathi's team created framework for how they can move incrementally with a set of standards to be able to share information in a way that still offers protection.

Tripathi anticipates that there will be an ONC strategy plan--out sometime this fall--that will be added on to the 10-year vision plan for healthcare interoperability. He said there may be some issues his team will need to address once that is released.

To learn more:
- listen to the interview