‘Firewalls’ protect patient confidentiality

Network security is paramount for community health information networks (CHINs) in Brookfield, WI, and Dayton, OH. That’s especially true when competing health systems are linked to one network and when insurance companies are on-line, says Lisa Paige, RRA, director of medical information services at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton.

Miami Valley solved this problem by creating, in effect, a one-way electronic link. The hospital can access databases at insurance companies, but the insurers can’t get into the hospital’s database. The trick, as Paige sees it, is to put up electronic "firewalls" while still providing easy access to those who truly need the information. "The whole idea behind a network like this is to get access to information quickly," she says. "You don’t want to defeat the purpose by making people go through a whole bunch of rigamarole just to get access to information they need."

The Wisconsin Health Information Network (WHIN) has several layers of security on top of any that subscribers may have already, says Michael Jordan, president and general manager of WHIN, located in Brookfield, WI. "We have a fairly extensive enrollment procedure that requires written authorization from the information provider for anyone to access sensitive information," Jordan says. The WHIN system also generates an electronic trail that shows system administrators exactly who has been accessing their databases. "We do regular audits on these and have yet to uncover any unauthorized access."