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Personal Health Records: Ensuring Patient Safety and Security

Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010

SANTA CLARA, Calif., January 6, 2010— A key cornerstone of President Obama’s health-care reform efforts is a national web of computerized Personal Health Records (PHRs), provided by a burgeoning industry of health-IT providers such as Google, Microsoft and IBM. But before this industry can be fully built out, health providers, technologists, and legislators need to agree on a slew of privacy and security safeguards and standards.

An upcoming forum at Santa Clara University, Privacy Protections for Patient-Empowered Care, will cover some of the pressing issues and key recommendations the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Trade Commission will likely present to the United States Congress on February 18. Congress has asked for recommendations for privacy and security requirements for certain Personal Health Record vendors and others whose activities are not governed by regulations that currently apply to health-care providers.

For example: Should there be legal consequences if personal health record information is leaked, even inadvertently, to marketers or to commercial data brokers?  Are there cutting-edge, foolproof ways of hiding identities in such data to minimize damage from such leaks?

The forum, taking place January 20 from 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the St. Clare Room of the Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library at Santa Clara University, will feature two health-IT experts at the epicenter of federal discussion on the issue:

- Dr. Paul Tang, MD, who sits on the privacy and security subcommittee of the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, will lead a panel on the array of Public Health Records under consideration, how they would work, and their implications for patient privacy.

-Deven McGraw, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Privacy Project, will discuss how third-party applications currently access and use personal data, and how such practices could be expanded with national health records. She’ll also discuss the emerging consensus around PHR privacy policy.

Forum participants —including legal experts, health providers, technologists, and social scientists — are expected to touch on a range of issues important to patient-empowered care: business practices; technical IT infrastructure; legal issues and policy frameworks. 

The forum is co-sponsored by Santa Clara University’s Center for Science, Technology, and Society; the High-Tech Law Institute of the Santa Clara University School of Law; and SCU’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics.

More information can be found here.

About Santa Clara University
Santa Clara University, a comprehensive Jesuit, Catholic university located 40 miles south of San Francisco in California’s Silicon Valley, offers its 8,846 students rigorous undergraduate curricula in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, plus masters and law degrees, and engineering Ph.D.s. Distinguished nationally by one of the highest graduation rates among all U.S. masters universities, California’s oldest operating higher-education institution demonstrates faith-inspired values of ethics and social justice. For more information, see

Media Contact:
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | 408-554-5121 |


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