Sunday, November 12, 2006


One in four. Luddites.

The federal goal is for most Americans to have their medical information in electronic format by 2014, and for all prescriptions to be written electronically four years before that.Are physicians moving towards those goals? According to the most recent annual study done by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, almost one in four doctors use partial or full electronic systems in their offices; that number is up 31 percent from the same survey done in 2001. (The study excludes radiology, anesthesiology and pathology.) These connected doctors recognize the benefits of an interoperable system of healthcare information sharing; when everyone is on the same electronic page, there is less probability of error. The Department of Health and Human Services has estimated that one of seven primary care visits is affected by missing medical information. And medical errors are caused by “M” words: miscommunication and missed communication between physicians, misinformation in the record, mishandling of information, mislabeled specimens, and misfiled or missing data.

Every form of record keeping has its pitfalls, but it seems absurd that in 2006 I would still be harping about installing digital systems.

Someday My Prince Will Come

I have been harping for years that the regulatory climate would change someday. It looks like that someday is upon us:

The new Congress is likely to include oversight of a health privacy law, known as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where the feisty John Dingel is expected to take over and ally himself with muckraking Democratic Reps. Ed Markey and Henry Waxman. They'll have plenty to work with, as there have been some 20,000 violations of the complicated statute, according to Swire.

HIPAA is not the only regulation that enforcement has been lax on. A new congress will probably not be so likely to look the other way. Of course, big non-compliant targets will be flashiest, but smaller non-compliant targets (like you and me!) will be easier game.

Don't be the warm-up for the main event. There are a couple of months before the new congress sits. Use that time to tune up your compliance. I really don't want to read about you in the trades as the horrifying example.

Say My Name

Every so often, I highlight another example of people using the handy HIPAA rules as an excuse or a scapegoat for some ridiculous or underhanded behavior. We have seen clinic managers cover up malfeasance, administrators use it to cover up lost records, and office managers use it to explain whatever rudeness they have perpetrated on some poor patient. This one is the biggest stretch I have seen:

With the introduction of the HIPAA rules, our government has set out to help us by protecting our privacy. Now, almost everyone is calling new customers or patients by a first name.

It seems that HIPAA is a tool of the dread conspiracy to call us all by our first names!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Birthday To You

Not on the national holiday list, but still an important landmark:

Dignitaries from the computer security field took the stage at the Computer History Museum on Oct. 26 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of public key cryptography, wax historical about academic, governmental and commercial developments in security, and ponder the future. Panelists included persons such as Whitfield Diffie, a cryptography pioneer and chief security officer at Sun Microsystems; Notes creator Ray Ozzie, now Microsoft's chief software architect, and Brian Snow, retired director for the National Security Agency's Information Assurance Directorate. They touched on topics ranging from NSA obstacles and export regulations to decades-old research papers and the Clipper chip.

A Hunting We Will Go

Here is nice rundown of the various types of scams and preditors on the web, trying to steal your information, or the information you are caretaking for your patients.

The summaries are about halfway down the page.