National privacy center backed by trusted entities

By Patty Enrado
08:59 AM

Amidst all the millions of federal dollars slated for health IT adoption, HHS understands the importance of protecting patient information in electronic form.

That's why part of that allotment of federal funding, $60 million, is going toward solving some of those thorny questions about the security and privacy of electronic patient information under the Strategic Healthcare Information Technology Advanced Research Projects on Security (SHARPS) program.

The University of Illinois won a four-year $15 million award by HHS to create one of four new centers for health information and privacy. While the center will be based at the University of Illinois, the institution has a handful of impressive partners, including researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Harvard Medical School, Johns Hopkins University, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, University of Washington and Vanderbilt University.


Those universities are impressive in and of themselves, but they carry a wealth of expertise and research in the area of healthcare security and privacy. Take Vanderbilt, for instance. It has a close partnership between its medical center and the Institute for Software Integrated Systems (ISIS) at Vanderbilt's School of Engineering. The medical center has spent 15 years working on its EHR development, and ISIS has participated in the development of a structured data security approach and software for the protection of the Department of Defense's data. Also, Mark Frisse, Accenture professor of biomedical informatics at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and Janos Sztipanovits, director of ISIS, are well-known healthcare IT experts in the industry.


Frisse said the combination of engineering and medical expertise applied to healthcare will help fulfill the new program's goals. Along with some of the partners of the University of Illinois, Vanderbilt participated in the TRUST Science and Technology Center, which the National Science Foundation founded in 2006. Vanderbilt is one of the core members and also leads TRUST's healthcare-related program.


HHS is serious about getting privacy and security right with respect to digital patient data. Stakeholders need to be vigilant and participate, but they should feel confident about the new centers and with the expertise of the teams selected to come up with solutions to protecting the privacy and security of electronic health data.

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