Letting Patients Own Their Medical Data Will Bolster Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity in the health insurance industry isn’t getting the kind of attention it deserves. Last year’s hacking of medical information from Anthem and Premera Blue Cross affected some 90 million Americans, and insurers must be proactive, rather than wait to try to make things better after the fact, argue Kathryn Haun, a federal prosecutor, and Eric J. Topol, a professor at the Scripps Research Institute, in a New York Times opinion piece. For instance, after Anthem was hacked, the company sent out thousands of letters to beneficiaries offering free credit monitoring, but that doesn’t really solve the problem concerning what’s being done with the stolen medical information, they argue. “What good does a form letter do for someone whose most private data has just been stolen?”

They suggest something they describe as truly revolutionary: Let the patients own their medical information and let them decide who they will share it with and who not. “Each individual or family would have medical data in a personal cloud or a digital wallet.”

There are concerns, of course. Some researchers worry that they won’t have access to the data necessary to conduct studies. But Haun and Topol say that patients have shown themselves over the years to be more than willing to share data for research, and their willingness “far exceeds the track record of doctors and health systems when it comes to sharing data.”

They say that technological solutions loom. “One approach, known as a blockchain, is an encrypted data platform that would give patients digital wallets containing all their medical data, continually updated, that they can share at will.”

Source: New York Times