U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

World Privacy Forum files comments on proposed rules regarding Patient Safety Organizations

Patient Safety Organizations | Proposed rulemaking — The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments today regarding privacy protections for patients whose health care information will be shared with patient safety safety organizations under newly proposed Department of Health and Human Services regulations. After a landmark Institute of Medicine report on the prevalence of medical errors and their harmful impact on patients (To Err is Human), the U.S. Congress eventually passed the Patient Safety Act (2005). The Patient Safety Act allows extensive health care data of patients to go to patient safety organizations. The idea is to provide a form of quality control. The Agency for Heathcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of HHS, has published its proposed regulations implementing the Act. The World Privacy Forum has made 14 recommendations for substantive changes in the proposed rules to protect patient privacy. The World Privacy Forum asked the Agency to expressly mandate that all patient data be de-identified or anonymized to the greatest extent possible, that the proposed rule should expressly require data use agreements for any data sharing, that the patient information be labeled as subject to the Patient Safety Act, and strongly urged that patient safety organizations be required to maintain an accounting of disclosures at least equal to HIPAA, among other recommendations.

Public Comments: April 2008 WPF files comments on proposed rules regarding Patient Safety Organizations

The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments today regarding privacy protections for patients whose health care information will be shared with patient safety safety organizations under newly proposed Department of Health and Human Services regulations. After a landmark Institute of Medicine report on the prevalence of medical errors and their harmful impact on patients (To Err is Human), the U.S. Congress eventually passed the Patient Safety Act (2005). The Patient Safety Act allows extensive health care data of patients to go to patient safety organizations. The idea is to provide a form of quality control. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), part of HHS, has published its proposed regulations implementing the Act. The World Privacy Forum has made 14 recommendations for substantive changes in the proposed rules to protect patient privacy. The World Privacy Forum asked the Agency to expressly mandate that all patient data be de-identified or anonymized to the greatest extent possible, that the proposed rule should expressly require data use agreements for any data sharing, that the patient information be labeled as subject to the Patient Safety Act, and strongly urged that patient safety organizations be required to maintain an accounting of disclosures at least equal to HIPAA, among other recommendations.

Legal and Policy Analysis: Personal Health Records: Why Many PHRs Threaten Privacy

New publication | PHRs and privacy — The World Privacy Forum has published a new legal and policy analysis examining Personal Health Records — or PHRs — and the privacy issues associated with them. This analysis, Personal Health Records: Why Many PHRs Threaten Privacy, was prepared by Robert Gellman for the World Privacy Forum. The analysis finds that significant, serious threats to privacy exist in some PHRs.

World Privacy Forum files public comments regarding oversight of genetic testing; warns about the privacy risks related to unregulated commercial genetic tests and the need to prevent phantom genetic tests from becoming a new business model for fraudsters

Genetic privacy | SACGHS — The World Privacy Forum filed extensive comments with the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society (SACGHS) regarding its draft report on genetic testing oversight, U.S. System of Oversight of Genetic Testing: A Response to the Charge of the Secretary of HHS. The World Privacy Forum requested SACGHS pay more attention in its final report to the privacy consequences of unregulated genetic testing that occurs outside the health care sector. The WPF comments note that current and proposed remedies for the misuse of genetic information tend to focus on the use of the information within the health care treatment, payment, and insurance systems. What is crucially important is to analyze how to protect genetic information in the realm of commercial collection, maintenance, use and disclosures. Another area the comments discuss is the potential for new forms of fraudulent activity related to genetic testing (Phantom genetic testing, that is, genetic tests marketed to consumers that are not even real or viable genetic tests.) The World Privacy Forum specifically recommended that the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics be tasked with looking at this matter, that an independent pre-market assessment mechanism is created for genetic tests offered outside the clinical setting, and that privacy be expressly discussed in the overarching recommendations in the final report.

World Privacy Forum appointed to California Security and Privacy Advisory Board

Announcement | CalPSAB — WPF executive director Pam Dixon has been appointed by California Secretary of Health and Human Services Kim Belshe to the California Security and Privacy Advisory Board. Dixon will serve as interim co-chair of the board, which is tasked with addressing health information exchange (HIE) privacy and security efforts in California. The board’s meetings will be open to the public.