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Kill your fax machine (redux) and watch out for HIPAA violations

Today, noted medical informatics professor and professional Dr. Bill Hersh had this exchange on Twitter with his daughter, a new medical student.

 

Later today, I stopped to pick up my mail in this multi-unit building and saw this sticking out of someone else’s mailbox.

A HIPAA violation waiting to happen

A HIPAA violation waiting to happen

That’s right, it’s a “personal and confidential” letter from Quest Diagnostics, presumably either medical test results or a bill. Either way, it’s a HIPAA violation waiting to happen. In fact, it’s probably already a HIPAA violation because people now know what lab this person used. The envelope is hanging out of this mailbox because it was misdelivered and whoever got it by accident placed it there for the intended recipient. But who’s to say it does wind up in the right hands before someone opens it?

Anyone who thinks paper is still a safeguard against privacy and security breaches, raise your hand. (Crickets.) Sure, electronic transmissions can be intercepted and databases hacked, but if you take the time to encrypt them, you lessen the risk. And should there be a breach, the audit trail that HIPAA requires can help investigators pinpoint the culprit and create a disincentive for employees to leak data.

As for the fax, it’s sadly ironic that a twentysomething is encountering a fax machine for the first time when she enters a healthcare environment. Kill your fax machine! It’s 2014. Why are we still using 1980s technology to transfer health information?

January 13, 2014 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Condolences to some well-known people in health IT

It’s been a sad couple of weeks for at least four people I know in and around health IT, and I want to send personal condolences to them and their families.

On March 26, Dr. Mark Frisse, the Accenture Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University, lost his wife of 35 years, Catherine Loretta Walsh Frisse, who, according to an announcement posted on Dr. Frisse’s personal website, lost her battle with breast cancer after putting up a strong fight for two decades. Mrs. Frisse was a teacher, volunteer and philanthropist in the St. Louis area, as her husband and daughter both attended Washington University School of Medicine and the family still lived near St. Louis, despite Dr. Frisse’s Vanderbilt job. (I am a Wash U. alumnus myself, though that was for an undergrad degree, not at the prestigious med school.)

On March 29, Dr. Bill Hersh, chair of the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University, lost his father-in-law, retired Chicago Tribune sports editor Cooper Rollow.

Also, Sheila Teasdale, retired editor of the journal Informatics in Primary Care and a former chair of the International Medical Informatics Association’s Primary Care Working Group, is mourning the loss of her father. J.D. Kleinke, who helped found Healthgrades and Solucient and now is a healthcare business strategist, economist, author and columnist, is doing the same for his mother.

Please join me in expressing sympathy for their recent losses.

April 5, 2013 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Poll for new national coordinator is rather laughable

Leave it to those in the ivory tower of Modern Healthcare to screw up something as simple as an unscientific poll about who should be the next national coordinator for health IT.  The poll lists a whopping two dozen names, ranging from the obvious—Dr. John Halamka, Dr. Paul Tang, current deputy national coordinator Dr. Farzad Mostashari—to the dark horse—Dr. Robert Hitchcock of T-System, Paula Gregory of the “Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicince” (sic)—and even a few laughable listings.

For one thing, Dr. David Brailer is on the list. The first national coordinator (2004-06) left Washington because he wanted to be with his family in San Francisco. He’s currently running a $700 million equity investment firm and couldn’t possibly want to get back into the political game, could he? Besides, he’s a Republican. Dr. William Hersh, CMIO of Oregon Health and Science University, would make a good choice, but he’s already said he doesn’t want the job.

Another choice is current CMS Adminstrator Dr. Donald Berwick. Dirty politics is about to force him out, and if that happens, you can bet he won’t want to be within 400 miles of Washington. (Hey, that just happens to be the distance to his home in the Boston area.) I’m really steamed about the Berwick situation, and am preparing  a separate post that hopefully will go up tomorrow.

Modern Healthcare also includes Janet Marchibroda, who’s identified as chief healthcare officer of IBM. Sorry, but Marchibroda, former CEO of the eHealth Initiative, left IBM last year. My sources tell me she’s now working at ONC, serving as de facto chief of staff to current coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal. (Blumenthal, as you no doubt know, is leaving in April.)

Missing from the long list of names is Johns Hopkins CIO Stephanie Reel, who won in a landslide the equally informal, unscientific poll that HIStalk ran a couple weeks ago. HIStalk did report, though, that Allscripts effectively stuffed the ballot box. Also not included is Blumenthal’s predecessor, Dr. Robert Kolodner, but he doesn’t want to go back, either.

I’m not going to run another survey here (hey, I doubt I have the readership to make it worthwhile anyway), but I’m curious if people think a non-physician could or should be national coordinator.

March 10, 2011 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.