SCAR primer addresses computer security worries

December 4, 2000

Close behind the digital revolution in healthcare and radiology follows anxiety over how to secure confidential patient information.The federal government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), in part, to encourage the

Close behind the digital revolution in healthcare and radiology follows anxiety over how to secure confidential patient information.

The federal government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), in part, to encourage the establishment of standards for electronic transmission of sensitive health information. It remains the responsibility of the healthcare industry to develop and implement comprehensive security strategies.

To address the resulting concerns, the Society for Computer Applications in Radiology (SCAR) chose computer security as the subject of the first in a series of primers it intends to release semiannually.

"Security Issues in the Digital Medical Enterprise" is edited by Drs. Bruce Reiner, Eliot Siegel, and Sam Dwyer. It addresses the complex issues swirling around medical data integrity, confidentiality, and dissemination of information over the Internet. Modeled after the SCAR University curriculum, the primer presents a global perspective from multiple viewpoints.

"The idea is that anybody -- an IT professional, radiology administrator, clinician, or even a physicist -- can pick up this book and find something they can use," Reiner said.

One chapter, written by Reiner and Siegel, is from the clinician's viewpoint. This is important, Reiner said, because this perspective tends to be overlooked. Those developing security measures usually come from the IT department and are not practicing clinicians who use the data in clinical decision-making.

Another chapter presenting the perspective of private industry is written by an industry representative who deals specifically with application service providers (ASPs) and security issues. Industry is often the first to confront new government regulations through its arrangements with hospitals that don't have the expertise to deal with security issues, Reiner said.

Dwyer contributes a chapter on the HIPAA regulations, providing readers with a detailed explanation of what HIPAA is and how it will effect them.

Two other chapters deal with more advanced, technical issues: one is written by Steve Langer, a physicist at the University of Washington, the other by Paul Clark, from private industry.

"We have the perspective both of people in the academic environment developing their own in-house security solutions and also of vendors who are putting together security packages to deal various types of institutions," Reiner said.

The primer was made available initially at the SCAR booth during the annual Chicago RSNA meeting on Nov. 26 to Dec. 1. After that, it can be ordered online at the SCAR Web site.