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HIPAA privacy rule fails to adequately protect patient privacy and hampers health research
Date:2/4/2009

WASHINGTON -- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule does not adequately protect the privacy of people's personal health information and hinders important health research discoveries, concludes a new report from the Institute of Medicine.

Congress should authorize the development of an entirely new approach to protecting personal health information in research, separate from the HIPAA Privacy Rule, said the committee that wrote the report. This new approach should apply privacy, data security, and accountability standards uniformly to information used in all health-related research regardless of who funds or conducts the research.

If policymakers decide to continue relying on the current rule to protect privacy in health research, the committee recommends a series of changes to improve the rule and the guidance that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gives on how to comply with it.

In addition, the report urges all institutions conducting health research to strengthen their data protection. Security breaches are a growing problem for health information databases. Among the measures that should be taken, encryption should be required for all laptops, flash drives, and other portable media containing such data given the potential for these items to be lost or stolen.

The committee's recommendations recognize the valuable societal benefits that both ethically conducted health research and privacy protections provide. Without such research, society would lose the benefit of new therapies, improved diagnostics, and more effective ways to prevent illness and deliver care. Privacy helps protect individuals from harm, such as discrimination and identity theft, and permits research and public health activities to be carried out in ways that preserve their dignity.

"We believe there is synergy between the goals of safeguarding privacy and enhancing health
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Contact: Christine Stencel
news@nas.edu
202-334-2138
National Academy of Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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