Computerization creates other privacy risks that are only now becoming apparent. Take the case of those dictation services in India. What if an employee of the Indian transcription firm recognized the name of one of the people whose medical charts were being transcribed and decided to sell this information to an American tabloid newspaper? Even assuming that the leak could be traced back to that employee, it is hard to imagine how the employee could be adequately punished.
But computerization also opens up the possibility for improved patient confidentiality. The person in India doesn't need to know the true name of the individual whose medical records are being transcribed—a code number would work just fine. And instead of making that code number the patient's Social Security number, make it a case number, or the time of day the patient was seen, or some other kind of code generated by the admitting hospital. The records being transcribed could essentially be anonymous—at least from the point of view of the person in India.
The ability of computers to shield identity and hide information is perhaps one of the reasons that a slim majority (53%) of hospital CEOs think that computers will actually strengthen patient confidentiality. Among insurance company CEOs, the majority is even higher—61%, compared with 35% who think computers will harm confidentiality.
Why the disparity between the CEOs and the doctors? Probably because the CEOs know what is possible with information ...