Engineering Health Information Systems

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Privacy risks of consumer health software on the Internet

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Consumer health informatics (CHI) applications provide computer-based services directly to health care consumers, i.e., patients and their caregivers. The omnipresence of the Internet and Internet-enabled computing devices in modern societies has created a rapidly growing market for different types of CHI applications, including information aids such as personal health records (PHRs), decision aids (e.g., expert systems), educational aids, (e.g., serious games and simulations), and management aids (e.g., monitoring and chronic disease management applications).

CHI applications have many potential benefits, as they enable patients and their caregivers to play a more active role in health care system. This form of consumer-empowerment is expected to translate into individual health improvements as well as in systemic benefits in terms of overall cost savings. However, the use of CHI applications also poses significant risks with respect to information privacy and security. Personal health information is among the most sensitive data and unauthorized disclosure may lead to severe consequences and irreparable damages for individual citizens, e.g., financial loss, loss of reputation (ridicule), psychological hard-ship, loss of insurance coverage, loss of em-ployment and livelihood.

We have recently published a systematic review of privacy risks and potential mitigation strategies associated with CHI applications. The research has been funded by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and can be found here.

Written by Jens

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Posted in Privacy

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