Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

A digital nightmare: When fitness bands become student-tracking devices [News release]

From the 25 May 2015 University of Queensland news release

A “nightmarish” vision of a future in which technology makes physical education more boring, judgmental and narrow is driving a new study by a University of Queensland academic.

Associate Professor Michael Gard from the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences has begun a three-year research project on the digitisation of school health and physical education.

The project stems from the assumption that developments in digital technology present exciting educational opportunities but carry a new set of philosophical, educational and ethical questions and dilemmas.

“Will we leverage the power of digital technology to expand students’ minds and open up choices about how to live, or will we use it to monitor students’ behaviour and tell them how to live?” Dr Gard said.

“For example, much of the health-related technology that we are seeing involves asking children to count the calories they consume or expend when they are exercising. Is this this what we want students to be doing at school?

“There is a lot of money to be made from digitising school health and physical education and, make no mistake, companies are already vigorously marketing all kinds of health and fitness technologies to schools.

“Then you have the whole ‘big data’ concern about how your child’s records are used.”

 

“Then think of a perfect storm, where performance pay for health and physical education teachers is linked to children losing weight, and you introduce some very tricky ethical situations. Once again, some American states are moving in this direction.”

The study will also investigate how schools use digital technology to measure students, such as their BMI (body mass index), and what becomes of the data once collected.

July 28, 2015 Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] The Latest Privacy Risk? Looking Up Medical and Drug Information Online

From the [March ? 2015] Fast company blog

YOUR MOST SENSITIVE WEB SEARCHES (OR JUST YOUR 2 A.M. HYPOCHONDRIA) HAVE BECOME FODDER FOR ADVERTISERS AND DATA BROKERS.

If you have cancer, HIV, diabetes, lupus, depression, heart disease—or you simply look up health-related information online—advertisers are watching you. A new paper on what happens when users search for health information online shows that some of our most sensitive internet searches aren’t as anonymous as we might think.

Marketers care very much about what diseases and conditions people are searching for online. Tim Libert, a doctoral student at the Annenberg School For Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of the paper says that over 90% of the 80,000 health-related pages he looked at on the Internet exposed user information to third parties. These pages included health information from commercial, nonprofit, educational, and government websites. According to Pew, 72 percent of internet users in the US look up health-related information.

PRIVACY LACKING AT WEBMD AND CDC.GOV

Site visit data by third parties isn’t just collected on for-profit sites like WebMD.com; even the Centers for Disease Control warns visitors that third-party content on their own pages includes marketing/analytics products like MotionPoint and Omniture that are used to generate targeted advertising. (Libert’s findings are published in this month’s Communications of the ACM.)

ONE COMPANY, MEDBASE 200, REPORTEDLY USED “PROPRIETARY MODELS” TO GENERATE AND SELL MARKETING LISTS OF RAPE VICTIMS, DOMESTIC ABUSE VICTIMS, AND PATIENTS WITH HUNDREDS OF DIFFERENT ILLNESSES.

STOLEN MEDICAL INFORMATION IS ROUTINELY TRAFFICKED ON CRIMINAL WEBSITES.

WITH LITTLE REGULATION, TIPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

While studies conducted by Annenberg indicate that slightly more than one in every three Americans knows that private third-parties can track their visits to health-related websites, regulation and oversight is lacking, says Libert. Health privacy is protected by the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), but the law is not meant to oversee business practices by third party commercial entities or data brokers. “Clearly there is a need for discussion with respect to legislation, policies, and oversight to address health privacy in the age of the internet,” says Libert.

To avoid the watchful eye of marketers, Libert recommends users make use of two different tools, Ghostery and Adblock Plus, which can at least partly prevent marketers from obtaining patient health information based on Internet browsing habits.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[News article] The Rise of Medical Identity Theft

From the 7 February 2014 Stateline news article 

By Michael Ollove, Staff Writer

A young woman retrieves a patient’s medical records at the Family Health Center in Louisville, Ky. The theft of personal medical information, whether paper-based or electronic, is a large and growing problem. (Getty)

If modern technology has ushered in a plague of identity theft, one particular strain of the disease has emerged as most virulent: medical identity theft.

Last month the Identity Theft Resource Centerproduced a surveyshowing that breaches of medical records involving personal information accounted for 43 percent of all records breaches involving personal information reported in the United States in 2013. That is a far greater chunk of record breaches than those involving banking and finance, the government and the military or education.

The definition of medical identity theft is the fraudulent acquisition of someone’s personal information – name, Social Security number, health insurance number – for the purpose of illegally obtaining medical services or devices, insurance reimbursements or prescription drugs.

“Medical identity theft is a growing and dangerous crime that leaves its victims with little to no recourse for recovery,” said Pam Dixon, the founder and executive director of World Privacy Forum. “Victims often experience financial repercussions and worse yet, they frequently discover erroneous information has been added to their personal medical files due to the thief’s activities.”

The Affordable Care Act has raised the stakes. One of the main concerns swirling around the disastrous rollout of federal and state health insurance exchanges last fall was whether the malfunctioning online marketplaces were compromising the confidentiality of Americans’ medical information.  Meanwhile, the law’s emphasis on digitizing medical records, touted as a way to boost efficiency and cut costs, comes amid intensifying concerns over the security of computer networks.

Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has disclosed the agency’s activities to the media, says the NSA has cracked the encryption used to protect the medical records of millions of Americans.

Multiple Motives

Thieves have used stolen medical information for all sorts of nefarious reasons, according to information collected by World Privacy Forum, a research group that seeks to educate consumers about privacy risks. For example:

  • A Massachusetts psychiatrist created false diagnoses of drug addiction and severe depression for people who were not his patients in order to submit medical insurance claims for psychiatric sessions that never occurred. One man discovered the false diagnoses when he applied for a job. He hadn’t even been a patient.
  • An identity thief in Missouri used the information of actual people to create false driver’s licenses in their names. Using one of them, she was able to enter a regional health center, obtain the health records of a woman she was impersonating, and leave with a prescription in the woman’s name.
  • An Ohio woman working in a dental office gained access to protected information of Medicaid patients in order to illegally obtain prescription drugs.
  • A Pennsylvania man found that an imposter had used his identity at five different hospitals in order to receive more than $100,000 in treatment. At each spot, the imposter left behind a medical history in his victim’s name.
  • A Colorado man whose Social Security number, name and address had been stolen received a bill for $44,000 for a surgery he not undergone.

 

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February 9, 2014 Posted by | health care | , , , | 2 Comments

Privacy Threats When Seeking Online Health Information

From the 8 July 2013 JAMA Internal Medicine article

Patients increasingly use the Internet to access health-related information for which they are not charged.1In turn, websites gather information from those who browse their sites and target advertisements to them. Yet this business model masks a more complicated picture.

A patient who searches on a “free” health-related website for information related to “herpes” should be able to assume that the inquiry is anonymous. If not anonymous, the information knowingly or unknowingly disclosed by the patient should not be divulged to others.

Screen Shot 2013-07-14 at 11.37.45 AM

The full text is not available online.
However, it might be available at a local public, academic, or medical library. Call ahead and ask for a reference librarian.

 

July 14, 2013 Posted by | Consumer Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Drug Database Dilemma

From the 26 April 2012 edition of StatelineDaily

No one disputes the need for more information about prescription drug abuse. But who should have access to the information is a divisive issue.
Dr. Shawn Jones, an ear, nose and throat surgeon in Paducah, Kentucky, was conducting a routine office appointment when he got a phone call from a worried pharmacist. The pharmacist had just received a prescription from Jones for 90 Percocet pain pills, an unusually large order for a doctor who rarely prescribes more than 20 pills at one time.

Jones asked the pharmacist to fax over the prescription, and he immediately recognized it as a forgery. It was for a female patient he hadn’t seen in five years. She had somehow gotten hold of one of his prescription pads. Jones asked the pharmacist to delay filling the prescription, went back to the exam room and talked with a policeman who happened to be in the office at the time. The policeman called in to the precinct to have the woman arrested.

Under Kentucky’s current prescription drug laws, only a vigilant pharmacist could have stopped these fraudulent prescriptions. The regulations don’t allow physicians to monitor their own prescribing habits to check for fraud, and the Kentucky board of medical licensure can look up a prescribing record only if a formal complaint against a physician is filed.

That will change under new legislation passed last week in a special session. To deal with the growing problem of prescription drug abuse, Kentucky legislators enacted tougher regulations on doctors and pain management clinics. The law mandates that all physicians and pharmacists who prescribe schedule II and III drugs, such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin), check the patient’s prescription record before writing or filling a prescription. They also have to register prescriptions for those drugs in a state database within 24 hours of writing or filling the prescription.

Currently, only about 25 percent of the states’ doctors use the database.  Now, all of them will be expected to.

Privacy issues
All of this may not sound very controversial. But it is. The database can also be a tool for law enforcement investigations, and these agencies want as much access to it as they can get. This has created a debate about how to balance patient privacy and law enforcement needs in fighting a serious criminal and public health problem….

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

As Facebook Aims at Millions of Users, Some Are Content to Sit Out – NYTimes.com

 

Česky: Logo Facebooku English: Facebook logo E...

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As Facebook Aims at Millions of Users, Some Are Content to Sit Out – NYTimes.com

From the New York Times article

Tyson Balcomb quit Facebook after a chance encounter on an elevator. He found himself standing next to a woman he had never met — yet through Facebook he knew what her older brother looked like, that she was from a tiny island off the coast of Washington and that she had recently visited the Space Needle in Seattle.

“I knew all these things about her, but I’d never even talked to her,” said Mr. Balcomb, a pre-med student in Oregon who had some real-life friends in common with the woman. “At that point I thought, maybe this is a little unhealthy.”

As Facebook prepares for a much-anticipated public offering, the company is eager to show off its momentum by building on its huge membership: more than 800 million active users around the world, Facebook says, and roughly 200 million in the United States, or two-thirds of the population.

But the company is running into a roadblock in this country. Some people, even on the younger end of the age spectrum, just refuse to participate, including people who have given it a try….

Read the entire New York Times article

December 27, 2011 Posted by | Psychology | , , | Leave a comment

Physicians on Twitter

Physicians on Twitter

From the Dr. Shock MD PhD Blog

In the latest issue of the JAMA the results of a survey is published. The authors did a search on physicians using twitter. They extracted the public profile pages of the physicians using twitter with 500 or more followers between May 1 and May 31, 2010. They analyzed the tweets of these professionals.

Of the 5156 tweets analyzed, 49% (2543) were health or medical related, 21% (1082) were personal communications, 14% (703) were retweets, and 58% (2965) contained links. Seventy-three tweets (1%) recommended a medical product or proprietary service, 634 (12%) were self-promotional, and 31 (1%) were related to medical education.

But what is somewhat worrying were their findings of potential patient privacy violations andconflicts of interest. Thirty-eight tweets (0.7%) represented potential patient privacy violations, of the 27 users responsible for these privacy violations 25 were identifiable by full name on the profile, by photo or link to their personal website. Twelve tweets were about a product they were selling on their Web site or repeatedly promoting specific health products, 10 were statements about treatments not supported by the official guidelines.

Using social media by physicians does broadcast useful medical information, unprofessional content in tweets by physicians is rare.
Chretien KC, Azar J, & Kind T (2011). Physicians on twitter. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 305 (6), 566-8 PMID: 21304081 ***

*** The abstract of this article may be found here.

For suggestions on how to get the full text of this article (letter to the editor) for free or at low cost, click here

 

 

February 16, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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