fier goes beyond the committee's charge and expertise. The committee notes, however, that the use of any universal health identifier raises many of the same privacy issues raised by the SSN. The question the nation must therefore answer is whether there are ways of attaining the presumed benefits of a universal patient identifier without jeopardizing patient privacy.

Meeting Future Technological Needs

As the threats to electronic health information become more sophisticated and health care organizations take greater advantage of information technology, additional technologies for security will become necessary.

Recommendation 5: The federal government should take steps to improve information security technologies for health care applications. Such steps would involve three areas: (1) technologies relevant to computer security generally, (2) technologies specific to health care concerns, and (3) testbeds for a secure health care information system. In each area, the federal government will need to work with industry and universities to determine which roles it can most usefully play.

Recommendation 5.1: To facilitate the exchange of technical knowledge on information security and the transfer of information security technology, the Department of Health and Human Services should establish formal liaisons with relevant government and industry working groups. Many information security technologies of value to the health care community will be developed regardless of the specific needs or demands of the health care industry. To take advantage of such technologies, the health care community needs to become more closely connected with other industries on the leading edge of security and the information security community so that it is prepared to adopt relevant solutions developed for other industries.

Recommendation 5.2: The Department of Health and Human Services should support research in those areas listed below that are of particular importance to the health care industry, but that might not otherwise be pursued. These technologies offer greater immediate benefit to health care than to other industries for protecting privacy interests and require specific attention and funding by health-related government agencies and industry. These include the following:

  • Methods of identifying and linking patient records. Research is needed to develop a scheme for linking patient records in a manner that satisfies the three criteria for privacy outlined in Recommendation 4, allowing patient records to be easily indexed and linked for purposes of care and

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