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A call to do more on privacy

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently took a white-paper whipping from the HHS inspector general's office.

I had a chance during a telephone interview last week to hear from a rebuttal witness, privacy lawyer Joy Pritts, chief privacy officer at the ONC.Pritts said the government is in large part already heading in the same direction in which the inspector general was pointing, "but these things take time."

The watchdog agency's report also recommended that the ONC use its standards-setting authority under the federal electronic health-record incentive payment program to require encryption of data transferred to portable devices. And it called on the ONC to better use its bully pulpit to encourage and educate providers and other handlers of patient information to be more security-conscious.

The publication by HHS' Office for Civil Rights of a list of organizations that have experienced breaches of 500 or more records has given the ONC data to analyze on 278 incidents thus far, which has "helped us identify the issues where we should devote our efforts to educating people," Pritts said.

Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn.
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