Even if you’re relatively young, you probably remember when doctors kept your medical records on paper in a file folder in a filing cabinet with hundreds of other patient records. Although hospitals have kept your medical records in electronic form for decades, digital records are becoming the norm in the office of your family doctor and the large medical group out of which he or she likely practices. Some practitioners are even converting older records into digital formats. And like so many of our concerns about digital information, the availability of data even more personal than our credit card numbers and bank accounts has many people worried.
Last month Consumerist reported about a data breach of 4.5 million records at Community Health Systems, which positions itself as “one of the nation’s leading operators of general acute-care hospitals” with facilities in 29 states.
Kaiser Health News reports that there is indeed cause for concern.
“As more doctors and hospitals go digital with medical records, the size and frequency of data breaches are alarming privacy advocates and public health officials. Although health care providers face serious penalties if they allow patients’ electronic records to be breached, thieves also have tremendous incentives to get around protections because health records contain so much valuable information.”