The privacy of patients’ medical records and personal information may not be as protected as patients thought, according to the General Accounting Office (GAO) after a hacking incident in August of this year. President Obama’s healthcare.gov system for Medicare and Medicaid was compromised when a hacker “infiltrated the HealthCare.gov website, apparently uploading malicious files”, according to a recent Yahoo! News article. Several political figures spoke out about the issue, one being Lamar Alexander, who felt like the website was never safe to begin with and that security needed to be massively improved. The government stated that they are currently in the process of strengthening their security and working on a solution to protect these individuals records from identify theft or other serious invasions of privacy.
Amanda Morris, Community Health Worker for ten years, was not at all shocked about the incident.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the information was leaked. When the government relies to much on systems and technology,” she said, “things are always susceptible to being leaked. We cannot capture and control the Internet. It’s in the hands of other people, meaning it is always a risk.”
Furthermore, Morris said she applied HIPAA regulations into her own work and lifestyle but believed there is room for massive improvement.
“I would hope that my doctor’s office practices HIPAA to the fullest extent. But working as long as I have, I know that staff will be staff; people talk- staff talk about clients,” she explained, “and I don’t think that, realistically, my things are as safe as they should be. It makes me a little nervous, but at the end of the day people naturally gossip and naturally talk about things. It’s a natural response.”
In addition, Morris said that she would respond to this particular privacy issue by educating those who are care providers but there isn’t anything we can do to prevent this problem.
“If we informed others of how violating patient privacy could affect someone, it could hit home and it may be more meaningful. Personally, the people who deliver the information are boring and don’t present it correctly; we need to create interest in HIPAA related issues. However with the Internet,” she continued, “I don’t know if hacking could ever be prevented. There will always be able people who are smart enough to hack things-look to break into Internet sites, no matter how many pass codes and security we have. The word security and privacy is very loosely defined. Things are not being upheld to the definition.”