So Modern Healthcare‘s Joseph Conn has a whole page to write about the Cleveland Clinic and he writes just about HIPAA and the fact that this pilot is not going to be covered by it. Writing in the San Francisco Chronicle Victoria Colliver talks about not a lot more, but at least she has someone stating the bleedingly bloody obvious—
"If it’s made convenient
enough and easy enough, people will be no more concerned about privacy
with these systems than they are with their financial information," he
said. "Far more people die because health information is not released
or difficult to get … than anybody’s ever been harmed because the
information has been inadvertently released."
OK so it was me she quoted, but someone needs to give Deborah Peel
and whoever the hell the World Privacy Forum is a big shake. I say this
as a card-carrying member of the ACLU and Amnesty International who is
deeply concerned about anyone’s private information and what use is
made of it.
And the shake is, if a government overhears your private information
illegally (or quasi-legally) it can use that information to take away
your freedom and worse. So the standard for their ability to access
that information should be an awful lot higher than it is in virtually
every country—including this one.
If a private corporation unwittingly lets slip your private health
data, or even uses some aspect of it knowingly to target you for
marketing, the chances of you suffering much from it are very, very low.
These are vastly different things, and conflating the two does not help in the least.
Furthermore, the potential for improvements in health outcomes and
efficiency from the type of things Google Health, Microsoft and
everyone else working in this business are trying to do vastly exceed
any possible risks associated with this disclosure. The kind of
language used by the privacy zealots besmirches the honor of the people
at Google, Cleveland Clinic and many other places working very hard to
fix these problems.
Furthermore the potential for harm from inadvertent disclosure would
be even less if we had sensible insurance reform that prevented
discrimination against people with certain health conditions. Of course
that discrimination exists right now every day in America. It causes
far, far more pain than any potential privacy violation. And I have not
seen Deborah Peel in the paper complaining about it.
For that matter while Peel’s complaining about Google, and lots of
other HIT vendors—without any good reason or evidence—she’s been
publicly praising Microsoft without acknowledging any of the accusations Fred Trotter and others have been making about her basic technical understanding of Healthvault. Perhaps its about time she came clean on the economics of that relationship.
CODA: For the record—other than one or two employees of Google and
Microsoft attending the Health 2.0 Conference in which I am a partner,
and my doing a small amount of consulting with a contractor who was
working for Microsoft in 2006, I have no financial relationship with
any of these companies. Not that it would change what I thought.