Genetic privacy — Genome-wide association studies present complex and challenging privacy issues. The National Institutes of Health, in a published request for information, asked for public comment on its proposed policy regarding its support and management of a central genomic repository for genome-wide association studies. In comments filed with the National Institutes of Health, the World Privacy Forum raised concerns about the proposed NIH policy in the specific areas of genetic identifiability, secondary uses of the genetic data, oversight, legal protections, and informed consent.
Genetic privacy — The collection of DNA material from 500,000 to 1,000,000 or more individuals as part of a large U.S. medical research project raises many challenging ethical, legal, and privacy issues. An advisory committee reporting to the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services ( the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society) has published a detailed analysis of the issues such a project and its associated databases and biobanks would raise in a draft report. The committee’s final report and policy recommendations will be submitted to the Secretary of HHS. The World Privacy Forum has submitted public comments on the draft; the comments include key policy recommendations.
Medical privacy — The World Privacy Forum filed comments with Health and Human Services this week asking the agency to protect patient choice and privacy. The World Privacy Forum asked that patients continue to be able to receive accounting of disclosures under HIPAA, and asked that this important patient right under HIPAA not be removed or weakened. The World Privacy Forum also asked HHS to review how patients’ records can be amended under HIPAA, and recommended that in light of the coming National Health Information Network, that changes to enhance patient choice may be needed in this area.
The World Privacy Forum has been particularly interested in developments related to EHRs and the NHIN. Given the impetus of the 2004 Executive Order  mandating forward movement in these areas, and the broad impact digitized medical records will potentially have on patients and on the healthcare sector, the World Privacy Forum believes that the decisions this Committee and others shaping these efforts arrive at will be of lasting importance. Given the transition of many parts of our society from analog to digital, it is crucial to ask what this digitization will look like and to carefully examine and discuss what form EHRs and related systems should take in regards to patient choice, privacy, and security.