By: Michael Lucien
Information privacy in the healthcare context is a very tricky issue. On one hand, individuals stand to benefit greatly from a more efficient system of storing and transmitting medical information. On the other hand, health information is among the information that we are the most concerned about falling into the wrong hands. As such, while many other industries have been quicker to use cloud computing for day-to-day consumer services (examples include: stock trading, online banking, email, social media, many online purchases and even online movie rentals), the healthcare industry has been particularly reluctant to follow suit. A large part of the hesitation on the part of the healthcare industry stems from regulation-imposed liability from HIPAA.
The aversion to adopting new technology appears to be changing due to two separate happenings. First, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires that healthcare agents begin migrating patient records and other data to cloud computing by 2015. Albeit a far off deadline, this has provided some motivation for the industry to modernize.
The second, and perhaps more important happening was the proliferation of Business Associate Agreements (BAAs) under the finalized HIPAA rules as modified by the Department of Health and Human Services. It was discovered that in earlier versions of the rules, liability only extended to Covered Entities (usually the originators of health information). The finalized rules make clear that liability should also extend to Business Associates, essentially anyone that in in the course of business with the Covered Entity deals with the protected information. This development lead to the birth of the BAA. These are agreements between the originator of the information and the Business Associate that extends liability. In lieu of these agreements, Business Associate liability would fall to the Covered Entity. Needing the business of the Covered Entities, Business Associates including could vendors have begun to accept BAAs is droves. What new innovations lie ahead in the healthcare industry remains to be seen. What is clear is that thee course for increased efficiency has been paved and consumers stand to benefit.