Microsoft May Put Health Records at Risk

It's bad enough when you're sick or injured; you're at your most vulnerable. You don't want to be worrying about someone getting at your personal information and health records at the same time. That's what some fear may happen with the advent of a new medical records management site.

Microsoft has rolled out a Web site called HealthVault, a new medical records site described as "part filing cabinet, part library." Users can get on the site to store and manage their own medical records, including reports from regular physicals, immunization records and reports from specialists. They can also opt to have information sent to other doctors as needed.

Although the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) gives doctors and those in the medical profession broad access to patient records, privacy experts fear that the easy access granted by a site like HealthVault opens the door for abuse. Giving patients control over their data adds to their convenience, but they may not always be as careful as they should be.

How do you feel health records should be managed? Do laws like HIPAA do enough? Should it be more expansive? In this age of open information, can such personal data ever be truly safe? You'll feel better if you let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

More News for MSNBC
MSNBC has picked up Newsvine in an attempt to make its news pages more interactive. Newsvine encourages readers to respond, post their views and tell their stories from their perspective, a so-called "social news" source. Viewers can post their own articles, comment on existing articles, add links to other sites that relate to posted content and so on.

MSNBC Interactive News just announced the Newsvine acquisition, the first ever for MSNBC. It intends to maintain Newsvine as a separate brand, but will share content and certain features with the MSNBC site.

It's not simply the extra clicks that MSNBC wants (currently, Newsvine draws about 1 million users per month, compared to MSNBC's 29 million). Newsvine brings the social networking aspect so popular in sites like Facebook. Competing news sites already have an interactive component to one degree or another.

How do you feel about writing your own news? Ever find yourself yelling at the TV screen or your computer when checking news sites on the Web? Would you contribute your thoughts and stories to something like this? Contribute your opinion to me at llow@redmondmag.com.

Google Shares Hit Landmark
Google shares briefly hit their highest point ever on Monday during trading, creeping over the $600 mark. Shares settled below that by the end of the day.

By contrast, Google shares were $85 in 2004 at its IPO. Currently valued at $187 billion, Google is the 11th largest company according to Standard & Poor's 500 Index by market capitalization.

While reaching the $600 mark was a significant milestone, some Wall Street watchers expect Google to break the $700 mark in the coming year as it continues to expand into other areas. Stock price is another area where those feisty Googlers are giving the Redmondians a run for their money.

Do you own any Google stock? What do you think about Google's increasing prominence and expansion into new markets? You won't have to search hard to find me at llow@redmondmag.com.

Another Personal Data Spill
The state of Massachusetts inadvertently sent out disks containing contact information for professional licensees -- people who have to apply for and obtain a state license to work in their chosen profession, like certified public accountants and health care administrators.

The names, addresses and, in some cases, Social Security numbers of more than 450,000 licensed professionals on 28 separate disks were recently distributed to various locations. Nearly all of the missing disks have been recovered with no information compromised. The one missing disk, which contains information on nursing home administrators, was reportedly sent to an agency in California and is still in transit.

The state blamed the gaffe on new software it's using to distribute the information. Apparently, the software was supposed to delete the Social Security numbers.

Seems this type of story is becoming disturbingly regular. How does your organization protect personal data? What safeguards do you take for your own personal data? Confide in me at llow@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.

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