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Electronic health records: which is worse, the UK system or the US System?

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Dr. Deborah Peel will discuss the current threats to privacy posed by the use of electronic health records in America. She is convinced that the US health IT system is far worse than that of the UK. And America has nothing comparable to the EU system of data privacy commissioners to protect the public’s human rights. She argues that the current Administration and Congress has enabled and frankly encouraged US industry and government to engage in widespread surveillance, theft, sale, and misuse of Americans’ sensitive personal health data. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services eliminated the right of consent in the HIPAA Privacy Rule, turning it into an ‘Anti-Privacy Rule’. The result was to eliminate Americans’ rights to control the use and disclosure of personal health information in electronic systems. Secondary uses without consent are now the primary uses of health data in the US.

Today, Americans have no way of knowing how many secret databases across the world store and use their health records. Both industry and the government lust after total access to the nation’s treasure troves of health data. Numerous industries exploit the extreme commercial value of richly detailed health data. For example, one data miner, listed on the NYSE , reported revenues of $2 billion dollars in 2006. The seriously flawed US health IT system has spurred technology innovators to restore privacy rights by building trustworthy systems and products controlled by patients. The route to progress and the widespread adoption of health IT is through privacy. But consumers can’t tell which systems and products to trust.

A new consumer-led privacy certification organization, Patient Privacy Certified, will audit health IT systems and products for adherence to the toughest privacy standards in the world. Certified products will be awarded a seal so consumers can tell they offer ironclad secure and privacy for health records.


Deborah C. Peel, MD, founded Patient Privacy Rights in 2004 to guarantee that Americans control all access to their personal health information. Patient Privacy Rights is America’s leading consumer advocacy organization working to restore patients’ rights to health information privacy.

In 2006, Dr. Peel formed the bipartisan Coalition for Patient Privacy. Coalition members include the Family Research Council, the Christian Coalition, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the ACLU , the California Medical Association, and the American Chiropractic Association – over 50 organizations representing 7 million people.

In 2007, the world’s largest technology corporation, Microsoft, joined the Coalition and agreed to adhere to the Coalition’s privacy principles. Also in 2007, Dr. Peel was voted #4 of Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Powerful in Healthcare.

In 2008, PPR launched PrivacyRightsCertified, a consumer-led organization to certify electronic systems and software that meet the toughest national and international standards for privacy. This enables the public to tell which electronic health systems and products ensure that personal health information is secure and all access is controlled by the patient. Microsoft’s HealthVault will be the first platform audited.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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