December 28, 2008 By News Report
Photo: HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.
The growing computerization, exchange and analysis of patient data offer the potential to improve the quality of care and reduce costs and medical errors, but those benefits won't be fully realized until privacy concerns are effectively addressed, HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said last week.
In a keynote address to the Nationwide Health Information Network Forum, Leavitt announced key privacy principles and a toolkit to guide efforts to harness the potential of new technology and more effective data analysis, while protecting privacy. Leavitt emphasized that appropriate privacy and security measures will be an essential sociological enabler of groundbreaking technology.
"Finding the balance between increased access to information and privacy is very important. If we don't have it, we won't succeed," Leavitt said. "Consumers shouldn't be in a position to have to accept privacy risks they don't want. Each consumer should be able to choose products and services that best fit their health needs and privacy preferences.
"Consumers need an easy-to-read, standard notice about how their personal health information is protected, confidence that those who misuse information will be held accountable, and the ability to choose the degree to which they want to participate in information sharing," Leavitt said. "Over time, consumer confidence in the handling of health information is likely to grow just as consumer confidence in online banking has grown, but that won't happen without similar protections and transparency about the use of their information."
The privacy principles articulated by Secretary Leavitt are as follows:
In addition, Leavitt announced several tools to help consumers and health information exchanges advance toward privacy protection and consumer access to their information. For example, the "Leavitt Label," modeled after the nutritional labels on food packaging, would allow consumers to quickly compare personal health record products.
This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.