HR e-Newsletter
Intelligence Unit Special Reports Special Events Subscribe Sponsored Departments Follow Us

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn RSS

Spying Technology Creates a HIPAA Nightmare

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, May 2, 2011

Listening to all of this should arouse amazement and dread in equal parts. It's easy to see that many of these new snooping technologies could be used to monitor the conversations and other data of healthcare professionals, or tap into patient healthcare files. Now, with the advent of electronic medical records, that prospect is even more frightening.

Imagine, for example, that a famous movie star is in your hospital. Given what we know about the low scruples and financial wherewithal of the tabloid news industry (remember the Farah Fawcett HIPAA debacle?) they could easily employ any of these strategies to steal information for some sleazy scoop. As far as I know, Tabloids don't pay HIPAA fines. Hospitals do.

Hospitals are labor-intensive worksites with thousands of employees, most of whom probably own a cell phone, many of whom regularly log on to Facebook, or other social media networks. The vast majority of healthcare employees are honorable people who would never willfully violate patient confidentiality. Nonetheless, given the new snooping technology, every single one of those employees represents a potential security breach that could cost your hospital thousands of dollars in HIPAA fines and untold public embarrassment. 

Whatever patient identity protections your healthcare organization has installed, it's hard not to have a sneaking suspicion that the snoops will always be one step ahead in the game. Take a look at some of the devices identified by Marketplace, and imagine how they could be used against your healthcare organization.

Perhaps it's time to remind employees of this brave new world of identity theft and eavesdropping, the devices that are becoming available to just about anyone, and the dangers they pose to patients and the people and organizations who heal them.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

Comments are moderated. Please be patient.