dure including revising grant application guidelines and contract proposals to include a section on confidentiality protection and to include privacy experts on peer review panels.

  • Funders of HSR including DHHS or other federal departments, foundations, accrediting agencies, health maintenance organizations and private companies could consider supporting research on data protection methods.

  • Organizations interested in data privacy and high-quality HSR could sponsor a prize competition for best practices in protecting privacy and confidentiality.

The methods of HSR, applied to data previously collected for other purposes, have been useful in discovering and demonstrating systemic effects and population-level trends in the organization and delivery of health services. It is important that we, as a society, continue to have access to such research in order to inform policy making in both private and governmental arenas. At the same time, it is important that we, as a society, protect the privacy of individuals and of vulnerable groups, and the confidentiality of information that patients share with health care providers. As a result of the present study, the committee has concluded that it is possible both to carry out valuable HSR and to protect confidentiality. However, to do so will require adequate funding. Resources are needed to support dedicated, trained IRB members and staff, to establish organizational confidentiality policies and electronic security practices, to educate researchers, and to provide statistical and computer expertise. The true test of our commitment to the twin values of advancing useful knowledge and protecting confidentiality is whether we are willing to make the needed investments to achieve both goals.

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