Yet the number of patient records contained in electronic databases is ballooning, fueled by billions of federal stimulus dollars. Recent healthcare legislation championed by U.S. president Barack Obama furthers the cause, imposing fines beginning in 2015 for providers who do not make the shift. The effort is propelled by the belief that a more nimble and connected healthcare system will save billions of dollars and improve the overall standard of care.
“The stimulus bill was like pouring gasoline on a fire,” said Lee Tien, a privacy law attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “It was a slow-moving fire before, but then it got very big and a lot of people began chasing the money. But there was very little [in the bill] that did much on the privacy and security side.”