Security worries burden California health exchange project

California's health exchange is using member information in a new initiative.

Ambitious health data projects need to be scaled to match security regulations and avoid HIPAA violations so they don't endanger participants in the supposed name of progress.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Covered California is investing more than $9 million on a new contract project to review detailed patient information to improve healthcare and insurance processes.

More than 1 million members of the exchange will contribute data to the initiative, which will be targeted through a five-year contract. Although the executive director of the exchange, Peter Lee, said that the organization is keeping user security in mind, others have questioned whether or not automatically incorporating patient data into this quality care assessment is ethical. 

However, even those who are critical of the privacy concerns have, in some cases, acknowledged the benefits health analytics could eventually deliver. The source features comments from Michelle de Mooy of Washington's Center for Democracy and Technology, who outlined the good and bad consequences of the initiative.

"There is potential for so much public good, but there is a greater public good in protecting privacy and security," she said. "I think asking permission is absolutely integral. It is not the state's data."

Another person who spoke to the benefits of using health data for improvements is professor Murray Jannex, who, according to KPBS, said that harvested information could be used to address healthcare cost concerns.

Other government health organizations may find themselves in a similar position when trying to coordinate an analytics project. HIPAA compliance services will offer a possible means for safeguarding information systems and determining whether or not further actions need to be taken to stay within government guidelines for protected health data.

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