It will be interesting to hear how many people are talking about Richard Guthrie as the 23rd annual Towards the Electronic Patient Record healthcare information technology trade show cranks up in Dallas. Selected pre-show TEPR activities began Saturday, but the main event starts today and will run through Wednesday. Health IT Strategist will be here until then.
Guthrie is a 92-year-old World War II veteran who lost his wife nine years ago and loved to get telephone calls from very pleasant and often talkative female strangers. His picture and story were in feature position, front page, over the fold, in the New York Times Sunday. The story jumped and took up the entirety of page 18.
"He ended up on scam artists' lists because his name, like millions of others, was sold by large companies to telemarking criminals, who then turned to major banks to steal his life savings," more than $100,000largely the proceeds from the sale of his family farmTimes writer Charles Duhigg reported. The thieves "operated from small offices in Toronto and a hangar-size rooms in India."
Data miners compile sucker lists on elderly people who are sick or fill out sweepstakes entry forms, or any number of other digital sorts they could build a marketable list around. One company hawked its lists under the catchy titles "Suffering Seniors" or "Elderly Opportunity Seekers," the article said.
"The thieves began calling and posing as government workers or pharmacy employees," the Times reported. "They would contend that the Social Security Administration's computers had crashed, or prescription rewards were incomplete. Payments and pills would be delayed, they warned, unless the older Americans provided their banking information."
Guthrie didn't hang up.
"I was afraid if I didn't giver her my bank information I wouldn't have money for my heart medicine," the Times quoted Guthrie.
Just imagine what damage these ghouls will be able to accomplish if they get their hands on everyone's medical records.
"Privacy and security are the Chernobyl waiting to happen for the healthcare industry," physician-executive William Winkenwerder said in a keynote speech at the TEPR show in Boston in 2001, just before he took over as assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. The Times article has spotted another steam cloud rising from the reactor.
On tap this year at TEPR are lots of panel discussions and demonstrations of vendor and user implementations of the Continuity of Care Record, a healthcare data transmission standard balloted by the American Society for Testing and Materials and an outgrowth of an effort by the Massachusetts Medical Society to standardize a care summary for patients discharged from hospitals to long-term-care facilities. A CCR enables peer-to-peer transmission of patient records from an independent physician's electronic medical record system to another physician's EMR without an intermediary running a database, such as an insurance company or employer-sponsored personal health record, or a centralized database of a regional health information organization, or even a centralized record locator service. Such peer-to-peer communication would require patients and physicians knowing where the record needed to be sent, which, given the Guthrie nightmare scenario, might not be limits of a good first step on the path to interoperability.
Again, it will be interesting to hear what the TEPR presenters and attendees have to say.What do you think? Write us with your comments at [email protected]. Please include your name, title and hometown.