October 4, 2010 – The Center for Democracy & Technology is recommending to Congress a series of steps to go beyond the HITECH Act and further improve the privacy and security of health information.

These include denying meaningful use incentive payments to provider organizations that significantly violate the HIPAA privacy and security rules, giving patients a limited right to sue for privacy violations, and mandating certain strong security safeguards, including encryption.

"The prospect of storing and moving personal health data electronically in an environment where security is a low institutional priority should give us all pause," said Deven McGraw, director of CDT's health privacy project in congressional testimony on Sept. 30. "We need - through certified electronic health record requirements and enhancements to the HIPAA Security Rule - stronger requirements with respect to data security, as well as more proactive education and guidance from regulators."

For instance, electronic health records certification requirements require the ability of EHRs to encrypt data in motion and at rest, generate an audit trail and provide authentication and access controls.

"However, there is no clear requirement, either in the meaningful use criteria or in the HIPAA Security Rule, to actually implement and routinely use these functionalities," McGraw testified. "Providers are required under meaningful use to perform a security risk assessment and respond to any deficiencies discovered, but this falls short of a clear requirement to implement or have a plan for implementing the functionalities required for EHR certification."

To access the full testimony of McGraw and others who appeared before the House Committee on Science and Technology, click here.

This story originally appeared on Health Data Management.