IAPP-GDPR Web Banners-300x250-FINAL


By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP

At a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on electronic health records and healthcare privacy, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) said it is “not satisfactory” that crucial protections provided for under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) have not yet been implemented.

Of major concern for Franken is the lack of finalization of the business associates rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

When asked, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Director Leon Rodriguez said he agreed the rule—which was included in HITECH—would “plug holes” in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Noting that they had received “extensive comments” on the rule, Rodriguez said the OCR staff is “working diligently” but have no time frame for finalization.

“Hurry up,” said Franken.

“Implementation has been agonizingly slow,” said Deven McGraw, director of the health privacy project at the Center for Democracy & Technology. She stressed the need for regulations—“almost three years later and we still don’t have them.”

McGraw noted that patients need to trust that the information they are sharing with their providers will be handled securely. “We’ve been hearing about promising results. At the same time the public expresses concern about the security and privacy of their information.”

As a result, she said, patients decide to not share pertinent information, lie or refuse to receive treatment. “The wild, wild west for data is not an environment of trust,” she said.

Joined by ranking member Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) as well as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Franken queried Rodriguez and U.S. Department of Justice Attorney Loretta Lynch about why there has been a “lack of enforcement” in cases involving healthcare privacy.

Lynch said enforcement numbers “are not reflective of what the Department of Justice is doing.” She agreed to work with Franken’s staff to provide additional enforcement information.

Rodriguez was optimistic. He said “the beginnings of change are happening” under HITECH, noting that the 2009 legislation has changed the environment because of the breach notification rule, increased penalties for violations and the introduction of the OCR’s HIPAA compliance auditing program.

Saying that “laws are useful only to the extent they are rigorously enforced,” Blumenthal asked Hennepin County Medical Center Privacy Officer Kari Myrold if laws have been effectively enforced.

Myrold echoed Blumenthal’s question and added, “I think a big reason for it is that the final rules aren’t here…People aren’t taking them seriously.”  

Franken summed up his findings by saying, “There are few kinds of information more sensitive than health information…When patients can be assured of privacy, that’s when electronic health records can be at their fullest benefit.”


If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Advertise in IAPP Publications

Find out how to get your message in front the people you want to reach. Download a media kit now.

Get more News »

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Network and talk privacy at IAPP KnowledgeNet meetings, taking place worldwide.

Women Leading Privacy

Events, volunteer opportunities and more designed to help you give and get career support and expand your network.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

The Training Post—Can’t-Miss Training Updates

Subscribe now to get the latest alerts on training opportunities around the world.

New Web Conferences Added!

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Staff

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Get Close-up

Looking for tools and info on a hot topic? Our close-up pages organize it for you in one easy-to-find place.

Where's Your DPA?

Our interactive DPA locator helps you find data protection authorities and summary of law by country.

IAPP Westin Research Center

See the latest original research from the IAPP Westin fellows.

Looking for Certification Study Resources?

Find out what you need to prepare for your exams

More Resources »

GDPR Comprehensive: Registration Open

New! Intensive two-day GDPR training led by the sharpest minds in the field. It's a can't-miss event.

The Congress Is Cancelled

The IAPP Europe Data Protection Congress 2015 is cancelled. Click through to learn more.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

Exhibit at an Event

Put your brand in front of the largest gatherings of privacy pros in the world. Learn more.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»