By Sheel Pandya, Policy Counsel, Center for Democracy & Technology's Health Privacy Project
Health information technology ("health IT") has been widely recognized as an essential tool in achieving a number of health care reform goals, including improving health care quality, reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and boosting consumer participation in their own health care. But without strong privacy and security protections in place, the risk of electronic health data falling into the wrong hands and being used for inappropriate purposes is amplified.
Survey data shows that the public is cognizant of both the benefits and risks of health IT. A large majority of consumers would like electronic access to their health data (for themselves and their providers), but are still concerned about the privacy of their data. How can we allay consumer fears, while building trust in health IT? The short answer is we need a comprehensive privacy and security framework that sets clear parameters for access, use and disclosures of personal health data for all entities engaged in health IT. Such a framework will build consumer trust in health IT, and help us to fully realize its benefits.