After Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA executive director for practice, gave the Town Hall meeting participants a "ground level" look at privacy in health care, he joined a panel of experts for what he called a "40,000-foot perspective" on the issue.
The discussion, moderated by Bernard Kalb, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," included many experts:
Kate Borten, an expert in health information security and privacy and president and founder of The Marblehead Group Inc., which provides information security management and risk assessment to clients nationwide.
Robinsue Frohboese, PhD, JD, a psychologist who will serve as the chief compliance and enforcement officer for the HIPAA regulation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Alan Goldberg, JD, LLM, director of the corporate and health-care service areas at Goulston and Storrs in Boston and a leader in online health and technology law communities.
Janlori Goldman, JD, co-founder of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit civil liberties organization committed to preserving free speech and privacy on the Internet, and director of the Health Privacy Project at the Institute for Health Care Research and Policy at Georgetown University.
Helga Rippen, MD, PhD, a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Internet Health Care Coalition.
John Wright, JD, vice president and assistant general counsel for regulation and technology at Wells Fargo and Company in San Francisco and an expert in banking, regulatory, privacy and con sumer financial services law.
CNN's Kalb began with a series of questions about HIPAA and privacy for the panel and then let the audience chime in with questions and comments. Below are highlights from the discussion.
On how to get the maximum use of new technologies without eroding patient care and confidence in the digital age:
"It's a simple answer to a profound question. We have to have standards. In health care, we've been conspicuous in the absence of standards....The issue for all of us is can we agree upon standards that are necessary for payment, privacy and security in health care....We can do this thing but it has to be done in a cooperative spirit."
"We know [patients] are afraid to seek health care because they are worried that their information will be used to deny them jobs, deny them benefits, embarrass them, expose them in some way....They're worried about privacy....We should have developed [regulations] 30 years ago before people were so wedded to each dollar they were making off the sale of health information. It's very hard to regulate industries such as insurers and drug companies when they now have an entrenched interest in making money that is not related to direct patient care."
"Given my specialty of preventive medicine and public health, I always think of the adage, safe sex, well, safe information technology. Limit the number of partners you're sharing information with, know your partners and use a barrier. Make sure you're secure in what you're doing....If you really think about how and when to use the technology, we can really maximize the use of it."
"In the banking industry, technology has really affected consumers. The advent of online banking created fears while, at the same time, was helpful. It's the same with psychology.... Ensuring information security and having the right standards in place is psychology's biggest challenge, and that will require a tremendous public education campaign."
On clinicians' ability to manage the risks created by new technology without violating patients' privacy:
"HIPAA to me stands for 'It's powerful and awesome.' There are many thresholds before a violator is punished. What HIPAA wants is for us to be reasonable and do the right thing for patients. Privacy should enhance patient care. We all need to calm down; we can do this."
On complying with HIPAA:
"It will take a couple tries to get to the point where [HIPAA] is fully functional. As we as psychologists take advantage of technological advancements, there comes responsibility to implement safeguards to ensure privacy. There are many situations where technology makes stuff easy. But with ease comes that responsibility to protect confidentiality."
On educating consumers about their privacy rights:
"That's an important component of HIPAA. It prohibits managed care from requiring disclosure for payment. We need to educate the public about this."
"We need to do public outreach. Consumers know very little about their information privacy. The privacy rule gives consumers the right to get access to their records now. We're launching an active campaign to let consumers know their rights."