[ Thursday, February 24, 2005 ]


Intercepting email: A reader from Pennsylvania writes:

Regarding your 'catch an email' challenge ( http://hipaablog.blogspot.com/2005/02/not-live-blogging-himss-i-had-hoped-to.html): I worked for the US Army as a software developer / IT contractor for 2 years (2000 - 2002). DOD-Secret information could be emailed in unencrypted clear text because email is so hard to 'catch'. Top Secret could not be sent via email. I don't think this has changed since I left (July 2002). How does the government justify allowing defense secrets to be emailed, but not PHI? I think a viable hospital defense would be "We use the same standards that the federal government uses for Secret defense communication."

My response:

On the news here in Dallas last night, it was reported that the Plano Independent School District (a wealthy suburb north of Dallas) has removed all of the swings from all playgrounds on school property. They haven't been sued by anyone, they're just falling victim to the same sort of "worst-case-scenario" planning that seems to scare the pants off of everyone when you talk about email. It sure would be easier for me to tell my clients, "everyone says this is what you have to do, so it's probably right and you better do it," rather than "everyone says this is what you have to do, and I know that it's more likely that aliens will steal your PHI and sell it to the Intergalactic Enquirer than someone catching an email, but you still have to do it even though it's patently stupid."

Life in healthcare is hard enough without intentionally hobbling yourself by taking away one of the most effective communication systems ever conceived. Then again, life is miserable enough for kids these days without taking away the simple pleasure of simulated flight that you can get on a swing set.

UPDATE: What about Vioxx? Yeah, no kidding. Cox-2 drugs may increase your risk of heart attack. You're suffering from debilitating pain, and the only things that seem to help are Vioxx and Celebrex, and you've tried just about everything else. What do you do? You (the patient) decide whether you think the risk of heart attack is worse than the daily pain. It's the old story about the guy whose doctor said he had six months to live. The guy asked what he could to to prolong his life. The doctor said, "Give up drinking, red meat, sex, caffiene, and sweets. Eat only tofu. Exercise at least 6 hours a day. And have your mother-in-law move in with you." The guy says, "Will I live longer than 6 months if I do that?" Doctor: "No, but it will seem a lot longer than 6 months."

Let people make their own decisions. Fully informed decisions, but their own. (hat tip: Gruntdoc)

Jeff [10:11 AM]

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