Practical Measures for Keeping Health Information Private

Roderick Neame


Increasingly large amounts of personal information are being captured and stored within healthcare systems; and these data are being shared increasingly widely, and aggregated into ever larger data warehouses. There are good and proper reasons for doing this and the end result will bring benefits to physicians, patients and the community. However there are also demands for health information, for unethical and illegal purposes, and the evidence indicates that there is a ready supply line for it; on the other hand there may be little need to use that supply line when such vast quantities of personalised health information are regularly being lost or otherwise disclosed by government and private sector organisations.
This article takes a careful look at information privacy to determine where and how personal information is being abused and disclosed, and how to prevent this. Some of the disclosures are simply a consequence of laziness and carelessness; others are calculating and deliberate; but they can all be controlled and in some cases eliminated by applying well-established methods and technology. The problem seems to be that institutions either do not understand what is required of them, or do not care enough to implement the appropriate measures. It seems also that systems are not being planned with privacy in mind, and consequently are not readily able to accommodate these demands.


Health Information Privacy; Unique Identifiers; Network Infrastructures

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