IEEE-USA advocates protecting personally identifiable health information, development of NHIN

July 18, 2005

WASHINGTON (15 July 2005) -- IEEE-USA is concerned that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) authority to access and analyze personal information could lead to privacy breaches of one's personally identifiable health information.

"We believe DHS authority to access and disseminate personally identifiable health data should be restricted unless adequate controls are put in place to ensure the security and confidentiality of that data," according a position adopted 17 June by the IEEE-USA Board of Directors.

IEEE-USA recommends, among other things, that DHS implement procedures to ensure that personally identifiable health information is not inadvertently used to discriminate against someone in employment and insurance; and to establish accountability and significant penalties for the misuse or abuse of such information.

In a related position, IEEE-USA advocates establishing a National Health Information Network (NHIN) to take advantage of cutting-edge networking technologies, as well as provide secure and reliable access to, and sharing of, health information. The NHIN should not compromise the security and privacy of one's personal health records, according to IEEE-USA.

The organization also stated that NHIN could reduce medical errors resulting from insufficient information regarding a patient's history, prescribed medications and current condition; provide fast access to health data in an emergency situation; and curb rising healthcare costs by eliminating much of the paper-based processing of patient records and insurance claims.

These positions -- "Homeland Security Operations and Use of Personally Identifiable Health Information" and "National Health Information Network, With Emphasis on Security and Privacy Issues" -- were developed by the IEEE-USA Medical Technology Policy Committee. They are available at
IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the IEEE. It was created in 1973 to advance the public good and promote the careers and public policy interests of the more than 220,000 technology professionals who are U.S. members of the IEEE. The IEEE is the world's largest technical professional society. For more information, go to


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