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Next, the nurse starts your IV. The IV pump sends information over a wireless connection to the pharmacy system. The data is encrypted with the notoriously insecure WEP protocol which, if compromised, would allow access to the entire pharmacy system and all the personal patient data in it. You are attached to the patient monitor that displays your heart rate and other vital signs. This monitor is actually a computer and once again, it has the same administrative password as every monitor at every hospital that purchased the device.
After your surgery, the nurse removes a pain medication from an automated dispenser. This dispenser is a Windows 2000 computer; the vendor has not tested Windows XP. The technician who installed the unit configured the hard drive so users can access it anonymously with root privileges -- to make servicing easier.
Surgery is frightening enough without having to worry about the security of the computer systems involved in your care. Not only is your personal information at risk but so is your safety. The security requirements for health care pale in comparison to those for online banking. Is your health information any less valuable than your financial data?
It is time health care software vendors take security seriously. If they were covered entities under HIPAA, it would be a big step toward providing secure electronic patient health records.
This was first published in October 2007