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July 20, 1994

Protecting Privacy of Computerized Patient Information May Lie in the Cards

JAMA. 1994;272(3):187-189. doi:10.1001/jama.1994.03520030023007

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NO MATTER which—if any—sort of national health care system reform is finally adopted by Congress, it is almost certain to bring about a great change in the way patient information is gathered, stored, and used for patient care, for medical and social research, and for physician and hospital reimbursement.

The shift from paper to computerized recordkeeping, which is virtually mandated by health care system reform, promises not only greater efficiency and cost savings but increased concerns about the threat to patient privacy.

Such concerns have not been lessened by reports of recent breaches of computer security that could have been disastrous for the patients involved. For example, the theft of three computers and floppy disks from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla, last November, suggests how harmful such breaches can be.

Stored in the computers and on the disks were the names of more than 7000 patients who had received

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