Hospital hack exposes more than 2,000 patient records

MassDevice On Call

MASSDEVICE ON CALL — Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is trying to make up for the exposure of more than 2,000 patients’ personal information that was hacked from a hospital computer.

The hospital told reporters that a computer repair vendor, who remains unnamed, failed to restore the computer’s security settings after servicing the machine. The computer was later found to have contracted a virus that snagged patient files and sent them to an unknown recipient.

The virus accessed patient medical record numbers, names, genders, birthdates and data on radiology procedures that the patients had undergone. No social security information or financial data was stored on the computer, the Boston Globe’s boston.com reported.

The hospital is offering all affected patients a free one-year subscription to an identity-theft protection service.

"We are grateful no Social Security numbers or financial information were released, and apologize for the inconvenience and deeply regret any concern this situation may cause," said John Halamka, the hospital’s chief information officer and author of the Life as a Healthcare CIO blog.

New heart imaging techniques prove safe for infants

Technological advances in computer tomography angiography (CTA) have made the coronary imaging technique safer for use in children as young as five months old, according to researchers at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation.

New techniques overcome the obstacle of a child’s higher heart rate using medication to slow the pulse and new scanner technology to capture high quality images of coronary arteries while using lower doses of radiation.

"Traditionally, pediatric patients who require coronary artery imaging have undergone a cardiac catheterization, which is an invasive procedure with a significant radiation dose, requiring sedation or anesthesia for all patients," Dr. B. Kelly Han, pediatric cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute, said in a press release. "The newer CT scanners deliver far less radiation than both previous generation CT scanners and catheter based angiography. Also, CTA is non-invasive and has different protocols that can be tailored to decrease the risk for each individual patient."

National Research Council finds standards for home health care lacking

As health care moves increasingly from medical facilities into patients homes, labels on medical devices need to be revised to reflect use by a layperson, according to a new report by the National Research Council.

"The report recommends that FDA promote the development of new standards for labels on medical devices intended for use in the home, as well as for the accompanying instructional materials, to ensure that they are understandable to nonprofessionals. Standards and guidance for labeling these devices are currently lacking," NRC officials wrote in a press release.

The Council added that patients need a more user-friendly pathway for reporting problems, and home health caregivers need updated training certification guidelines.

Public health surveillance via Twitter?

Twitter users share extensive information about their dental health and seek advice from other uses, making Twitter a potential medium for public health surveillance, according to research published in the Journal of Dental Research—the official publication of the International and American Assns. for Dental Research.

Researchers coded 1,000 tweets into categories for experience of tooth pain, actions taken or considered in response to tooth pain, impact on daily life and advice sought from the Twitter community. More than three-quarters of the tweets collected were general statements about tooth pain, 44 percent reported seeing a dentist, 43 percent took analgesic or antibiotic medication and 14 percent asked their Twitter network for advice.

"This paper highlights the potential of using social media to collect public health data for research purposes," the Journal’s editor-in-chief William Giannobile said in the press release. "Utilizing Twitter is an interesting, early stage approach with potential impact in the assessment of large sets of population information."

Microsoft aims for Google Health windfall

Patients who are looking for a place to store their online medical records after Google’s announcement last month that its Google Health service will disappear by January 1, 2013, need look no further than Microsoft’s Health Vault.

Microsoft announced that Google Health users can easily transfer their data to the Vault using Direct Project messaging protocols authorized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, EMR Daily News reported.

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