Seventeen years ago, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) published an op-ed on his website stressing the need for an advanced and more modern Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). As technology continues to evolve and more health care data is becoming susceptible to being stolen and leaked, Whitehouse's article is more relevant than ever.
“Health care’s fundamental problem is market failure," Whitehouse said in his article. "Market forces are bottled up, conflicted, log jammed and misdirected. I believe in market forces, but it is our job in government to create an environment in which market forces operate in a way that benefits the public. Where that healthy environment for market forces does not exist, government must act.”
In his op-ed, Whitehouse demanded the government establish rules for interoperability among health care systems, confidentiality, and security of data and an electronic health record’s contents.
HIPAA was enacted in 1996 as a promise to safely secure all forms of health data for patients, which includes test results, x-ray and MRI images, ultrasounds, and anything else that evaluates a person’s overall health. With new technology such as smartphones, electronic tablets, laptops and watches all being given permission to collect information by the user, HIPAA becomes ineffective, as the act can only protect data from technology of its era. Now, many are concerned with their electronic health data being collected and released throughout the Internet, which has the potential to affect a person’s overall reputation.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Organizations such as the Health Innovation Alliance (HIA) have started to collaborate with Congress to modernize HIPPA. The HIA told Patient Daily that there are forms of technology designed for more secure health care data systems, but national laws regarding privacy restrictions prevent the technology from being released.
“The challenge is that our laws haven’t kept pace with the technology, and so we’re trying to change the laws and the framework that allow for better privacy, better security around that data, so that consumers can enjoy both the benefits of having their data used to make health care work better, and at the same time enjoy greater privacy and greater security,” HIA Executive Director Joel White said in the article.
Whitehouse’s office was not available for further comment.