CeBIL paper published in JAMA – University of Copenhagen

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06 June 2018

CeBIL paper published in JAMA

HIPAA and Protecting Health Information in the 21st Century, an article published recently by I. Glenn Cohen and Michelle M. Mello, discusses the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and whether it is up to the task to protect health information in the 21st century, in light of developments in health services.

The big data era has finally come to health services research. There is a growing movement within health care services that seeks to make greater use of patient data and improve care and health of patients by making information easily available wherever patients receive care, as well as by allowing patients to share information through apps and other online services.

HIPAA, a 1996 regulation that aims to protect patient privacy, is United States' most important safeguard against unauthorised disclosure and use of health data. But HIPAA may not be enough to adequately protect patients in the big data era.

The article discusses the HIPAA framework for information disclosure and similar federal data protection laws that overlap the health care space, then suggests possible reforms to the framework. Big data poses new challenges for HIPAA, and it will be difficult to reconcile the potential of big data with the need to protect individual privacy. Cohen and Mello then discuss the limited reach of HIPAA and possible solutions to expand the scope of the act. Because HIPAA only applies to certain entities, rather than types of information, it therefore only covers a small share of health information in the United States and is not a comprehensive solution.