Pondering professional trust and patient privacy
One of the most popular stories this week on Pulse+IT was our article on Queensland's move to allow GPs to take a look at their patient's hospital medical record through a new portal that links to Queensland Health's The Viewer, the web-based application that lets QH clinicians see patient data from different clinical systems and different hospitals throughout the state.
The Queensland government had to write new legislation last year to get the system up and running, and from what we hear, it is going to be a very popular move. There are strict privacy and registration procedures that GPs have to go through, including lots of hoops to prove their identity before they are allowed to register, but in the wake of last week's revelation that it may be the HPOS system at fault for the Medicare number leak, that's probably not a bad thing.
While the independent review panel gets to work on finding out what happened and whether appropriate safeguards are in place, it got us here at Pulse+IT thinking about the access we give healthcare professionals to patient data and whether we are over-egging the privacy thing. While those who work in or write about the industry huff and puff about data security, as do the privacy activists and the infosec advocates, we often forget to ask what the patients themselves think.
When confronted with the news that their GP will be able to look at their hospital medical records at the touch of a button, what would the average Queenslander say? Would they be anxious or concerned or demand to know what security protocols are in place? Would they worry that an Eastern European hacker will find out about the cause of that embarrassing rash because their GP was accessing the info online?
Nope. We reckon the average punter would be asking why this is news. Time and again, we hear from healthcare professionals and patients themselves that they expect their care team to already have this information and be sharing it. Our other big news this week was that the secure messaging interoperability proof of concept trials were finally underway. Shouldn't this have happened years ago? Is the problem that interoperability is hard or that we make it hard?
Consumers certainly seem more aware of the risks of data breaches these days, but their ire is directed at governments and big corporations, not nurses and doctors and pharmacists. In an industry that runs on trust, we may be forgetting the three professions that consumers consistently rate as the most trustworthy of all. (Hint: it's nurses and doctors and pharmacists.)
This brings us to our poll question for this week: Is the healthcare system over-cautious when it comes to patient privacy? Sign up for our weekend edition and vote in our poll, or comment below.
Our poll last week asked: Will the exposure of Medicare numbers affect confidence in My Health Record? 78 per cent said yes, with just 22 per cent saying no.