NHIN update — The National Health Information Network, or NHIN, is part of a major undertaking to digitize and network the health care sector. From electronic health records to multi-state health information hubs, the U.S. government’s goal is to modernize and move health care information from paper to digital. The Department of Health and Human Services is the primary mover behind this initiative, which is complex and multi-faceted. The World Privacy Forum keeps a chronology of NHIN events as a public service. The NHIN timeline has been updated to reflect changes in AHIC, a group that is charged in part with ensuring privacy and confidentiality in the NHIN and other aspects of health care modernization. AHIC is set to transition to a “public-private partnership,” a move that will need to be watched closely to ensure robust consumer involvement.
REAL ID | National ID — The World Privacy Forum and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed joint comments with the Department of Homeland Security about the proposed national ID system, REAL ID. The comments discuss the substantial flaws in the proposed REAL ID system including concerns about the overall structure of the program, the cards, the databases attached to the cards, the lack of controls on “function creep,” the possibilities for discrimination, the potential for increased risk of identity theft, issues related to potential gaps in coverage for recipients on Federal programs, among other issues.
National Health Information Network — Recently, the first live prototypes of the NHIN were demonstrated in Washington, D.C. This was a milestone event in the development of the planned network. The National Health Information Network is an ambitious project the U.S. government undertook in 2004 to digitize and network patient health records across the nation. This project raises challenging confidentiality, privacy, and security issues.
Genetic Privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed public comments with the Department of Health and Human services in response to an HHS request for information regarding the use of patients’ genetic data for research, health care, and for use in electronic health records. The World Privacy Forum is requesting that HHS use all Fair Information Principles in any personalized health care projects, and is requesting that a formal ELSI (ethical, legal, and social implications) committee be set up to oversee any projects, among other requests.
e-Government /CIPSEA — The World Privacy Forum submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget regarding proposed guidance on Title V of the e-Government Act. The proposed guidance did not address the relationship between CIPSEA and the USA PATRIOT Act Section 215, and guidance regarding identifiability and the Privacy Act of 1974 needs to be further refined. WPF suggests that OMB consider developing a formal statistical confidentiality seal controlled by a federal agency. The purpose would be to provide an identifiable marker that would tell individuals if the information they provide will receive the highest degree of confidentiality protection available under law.