Back in 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast community of Waveland, Mississippi. Among the many losses were the community’s medical files. The storm instantly wiped out more than 10,000 of Waveland Medical Center’s patient medical records.
“For the past year, we have had to rely on our memories and notecards to keep track of patient care while treating patients outside or in a tent, battling against power outages, and working without heat in the cold and without air conditioning in the summer,” said Roberta Chilimiagras, M.D., WMC’s owner, in the days after the storm.
Patients fleeing the Gulf Coast area often sought treatment elsewhere. In Houston, Melinda Amedee presented at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, saying that she had been scheduled to have a tumor removed from her kidney at a New Orleans hospital. As Time magazine reported, her case posed a serious challenge to the doctors in Houston, who had no medical records and no way of contacting her Louisiana kidney specialist.
This example – extreme as it is – highlights a critical, and often overlooked, component of the privacy and security of patient information. Health information security can be thought of as a three-legged stool—Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability. It’s widely accepted that health information must be kept confidential. But what good is all that information if doctors and their patients can’t get to it at the critical moments? I’d argue that on a day-to-day basis, patient access to, and input on, what is in their health records is an aspect of privacy and security that deserves greater attention.Continue reading…