Author Archive

A success story in health information exchange

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

We all are aware that our lives are practically becoming digital; so are hospitals. Major funding initiatives are underway to support the transition of hospitals into the digital age. In 2004, the US government spent $50 million to test computerization of health records and further proposed $125 million in related federal spending for the year 2005.

In April 2004, President Bush asked the IT industry to build a system that would provide every citizen of the United States with an electronic health record (EHR) that could be accessed from any location by 2014. He appointed Dr. Brailer (national coordinator for Health Information Technology for the Department of Health and Human Services) to coordinate this effort and establish the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).

In December 2005, Dr. Brailer’s office awarded $18.6 million in contracts to four consortia led by IBM, Computer Science Corporation, Accenture and Northrop Grumman to develop prototype architectures for the NHIN. Each group consists of developers, hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and physicians who must prove that EHRs can be exchanged across different health organizations.

In a similar effort to build such data interchange networks, Connecting for Health, a public-private collaborative led by the Markle Foundation, developed a prototype system (which will release in Spring 2006) that was successful in exchanging thousands of health records from three independently developed regional records systems (California, Massachusetts and Indiana). These three independently developed health systems had no common architecture but were able to apply the common framework developed by Connecting for Health for the exchange of records.

Seeing such successful projects, we can be rest assured that our federal money is being utilized efficiently and in the right direction.

Blind voters report privacy violation

Thursday, November 11th, 2004

Dozens of voters from Florida had to speak their ballot choice aloud to the poll people. They feel like they lost their right to a secret ballot as everyone in the line could hear their choice and this violated their privacy. By 2006, all counties in the state are required to provide voting machines accessible to to the blind.


Auto-complete feature in E-mails: Privacy problem

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

We all have probably experienced using e-mail programs which provide auto-complete features. So if I were sending an email to Bob Smith and wasn’t paying enough attention there is a high possibility that I could send that email to Joe Smith. This is a problem since we not only reveal the other person’s email-address but now we can associate them to where they work as well. There are of course many ways we can prevent such problems from occuring. Some of them are mentioned in the article below.
E-mail poses privacy problems

Internet Campaigning

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

During an election campaign most individuals when making contributions freely give out contact information that include name, address, e-mail address, phone, credit card information. How much are the privacy rights of contributors or supporters respected in the use of personal information obtained during elections?

Current Louisiana treasurer, John Kennedy’s web site says, “We will not sell personal information provided through this Web site to unrelated third-parties.” Many people raised questions as to who are these “unrelated third parties?” The privacy policy on that website definitely needs to be updated. For more information please read: Louisiana Elections and Politics: Campaigns, e-mail and privacy

Database storing information on homeless people

Friday, October 22nd, 2004

Privacy advocates are raising concerns over the collection and storage of data on homeless people. Department of Housing and Urban Development is collecting such data saying that it will help homeless people and battered women in the long run. What they do not realize is that there is potential risk that someone might get acces to information on a victim of domestic violence and find them and hurt them more.
For more information read:
Tussling over victims’ privacy

Internet Scam: phishing

Tuesday, October 19th, 2004

It seems like Internet scamming is on the rise. Recently, many incidents of phishing have been observed causing loss of millions of dollars in the US. “Phishing is a scheme that uses e-mails appearing to come from a legitimate company and directing recipients to fake websites where they are asked for personal or financial information.” Consumers should only disclose personal information when they initiate a transaction themselves.
For more information please visit: 500 million dollars lost in Internet ‘phishing’ scams in US

Attack On Privacy

Monday, October 18th, 2004

Imagine an implantable chip under your skin that contains all your personal information. The FDA recently approved marketing these chips for a Florida company. This chip would provide access to individual medical records not only to medical professionals but also to those who have the technology that can read embedded information. For more information read more at :
Identity Badge Worn Under Skin Approved for Use in Health Care

Voting Privacy

Friday, October 1st, 2004

The new voting technology and polling practices certainly have an impact on the privacy rights of voters. Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has been asked to offer testimony on this impact. The committee is expected to make its recommendations to the full Election Assistance Commission board sometime next summer for adoption and implementation in 2006.
For more information see:
Voting Statement

Expand Privacy of cell numbers

Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

California is the first state to enact the cell number privacy law supported by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Consumers should have the right to decide whether they want a privacy block on their number or whether they want to make it public. According to this law, a written consent would be required by the customer to make their number public and those who do not wish to indulge in this service would not be charged. For more information check out:

California is First to Enact Cell Phone Number Privacy Law

Medical Privacy

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

A few months back I received an email from a person who said they have my medial reports from Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC. This was a person with the exact same name as mine. I was shocked to see the carelessness that was shown on part of the employees at the Student Health Center at my University. On checking with them I found out that my social security number was transferred to the other person’s records and vice versa. It seems to me that at many places privacy and general “best practices” are not being given the regard people expect to see.
On a similar note, recently, an Everett, Washington hospital employee mistakenly faxed confidential patient data to the city’s newspaper when the employee transposed numbers for two physicians with the same last name. More information on this case can be found at :
Hospital works to cut number of fax problems

— Neha Jain