HIMSS CEO Briefs U.S. House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittees on the Tension between Ensuring Privacy of Healthcare Data vs. Providing Access

Hal Wolf

HIMSS President & CEO Hal Wolf on Capitol Hill addressed the tension between two factions: the technological innovations – which relies on the access to both clinical and personal data and information – for better health outcomes, versus the critical need to protect that information from cybersecurity threats, and the financial and operational impacts of data and information breaches.

Wolf briefed subcommittee members and staff in a roundtable hosted by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and the Subcommittee on Technology Modernization, both of the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Committee. 

Wolf reported at the Dec. 14 meeting that technological innovation in healthcare is evolving with a reliance on sensitive patient information and that it must be conceived, built and maintained with robust privacy and cybersecurity measures to ensure adequate protections. 

Throughout the world, an entire health application ecosystem is being developed for clinical and personal domains that rely on secure access to health and healthcare data and information, he said. Without governed access and exchange of these vital sources, the U.S. will hinder its national ability to meet patient and veteran needs in the immediate years ahead. 

Wolf added that collaboration is increasingly necessary between the U.S. and governments across the world to align policies, where possible, to ensure patient data and information can be seamlessly and securely shared.  

“There is a risk, in a post-Covid world, where governments could retreat to the protection of their local data and create regulations that prohibit access beyond their borders,” Wolf said. “Without proper access to health data for the treatment of a named patient, and de-identified data for population health status and to allow vital health research, we will fail at one of our most critical moments.”   

HIMSS and the subcommittees share aligned interests: protecting the confidentiality, integrity and security of healthcare data while ensuring the interoperability and availability of veterans’ personal data for the right utilization, at the right time, by the right users for better health outcomes. 

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