Article Date: 6/1/2007

Going Digital: Proceed With Caution
UPFRONT

Going Digital: Proceed With Caution

JASON S. SLAKTER, MD

As a twist on that old saying, I contend that behind every silver lining lurks a dark cloud. As we all know, the advent of digital technology has improved the quality of both patient care and our overall practices. With this technology, we have been afforded the opportunity to develop new and more effective imaging modalities, to more rapidly obtain diagnostic testing of our patients, to review the results of these tests with our patients while they are in the office, and also to share these images with our colleagues around the globe. As David Browning, MD, discusses in this issue of Retinal Physician, electronic medical records are now making their way into our practices, which should enhance patient care and improve patient flow.

However, there are potential pitfalls of this electronic age. The ramifications of electronic imaging and electronic data collection were brought home to me in an all too personal way just last month, when I became the victim of identity theft.

I am sure that some readers may be shaking their heads thinking, "been there, done that," but I was shocked to suddenly begin receiving congratulatory letters in the mail for new credit card accounts that had recently been opened, completely without my knowledge. It took only a few phone calls to realize that someone, somewhere, had obtained my social security number and other personal information and managed to open no fewer than 10 new credit card accounts and fraudulently charge thousands of dollars. Furthermore, it appeared that I was now living in central Pennsylvania. No offense to my colleagues and friends in that lovely state, but I prefer to remain a New Yorker.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, the credit card agencies and credit-reporting services are all too familiar with the crime of identity theft and quickly began instituting corrective actions. What I found disappointing was the almost casual response: Many company representatives have an attitude that seems to consider identity theft, the fastest growing crime they encounter, as simply being "the cost of doing business."

LAPSES IN SECURITY WIDESPREAD, FOR NOW

Even more disturbing than this personal experience, however, was a letter that I received, apparently along with more than a million other physicians, stating that personal data stored on a hard drive was lost by the Veterans Affairs Administration. I contacted the number listed in the letter, and they informed me that this information had been provided from some government office to Veterans Affairs for "research being conducted on physician practices and patterns." For our patients, we are required to follow HIPAA guidelines and carefully delete or restrict information from documents before they are shared outside the office. Shouldn't physicians be granted the same rights or protections? Until this is the case, we not only have to continue to protect the security of our patients in this age of digital technology, but we should also remember to be cautious and attentive to our own personal security.

JASON

Retinal PHYSICIAN
Editorial Advisory and Review Board
Jason S. Slakter, MD. Editor-in-Chief
New York, NY. jslakter@aol.com
(212) 861-9797

Lloyd P. Aiello, MD, PhD, Boston, Mass
Fareed Ali, MD, FRCS(C)
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Riva Lee Asbell, Philadelphia, Pa
Abdhish R. Bhavsar, MD, Minneapolis, Minn
Stanley Chang, MD, New York, NY
Emily Y. Chew, MD, Bethesda, Md
Kevin Corcoran, COE, CPC, FNAO
San Bernardino, Calif
Donald J. D'Amico, MD, Boston, Mass
Dean Eliott, MD, Los Angeles, Calif
Sharon Fekrat, MD, Durham, NC
Frederick L. Ferris, MD, Bethesda, Md
Donald C. Fletcher, MD, San Francisco, Calif
Morton F. Goldberg, MD, FACS, Baltimore, Md
Julia A. Haller, MD, Baltimore, Md
Allen C. Ho, MD, Philadelphia, Pa
Lee M. Jampol, MD, Chicago, Ill
Mark W. Johnson, MD, Ann Arbor, Mich
Eddie F. Kadrmas, MD, PhD, Plymouth, Mass
Peter K. Kaiser, MD, Cleveland, Ohio
Martin A. Mainster, PhD, MD, FRCOphth
Kansas City, Kan
William F. Mieler, MD, Chicago, Ill
Joan W. Miller, MD, Boston, Mass
Dennis A. Orlock, CRA, New York, NY
Kirk H. Packo, MD, Chicago, Ill
Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, Miami, Fla
Carl D. Regillo, MD, FACS, Philadelphia, Pa
Richard Rosen, MD, New York, NY
Philip J. Rosenfeld, MD, PhD, Miami, Fla
Reginald J. Sanders, MD, Washington, DC
Steven D. Schwartz, MD, Los Angeles, Calif
Ingrid U. Scott, MD, MPH, Hershey, Pa
Johanna M. Seddon, MD, ScM, Boston, Mass
Stephen C. Sheppard, Springfield, Mo
Jerry A. Shields, M.D., Philadelphia, Pa
Lawrence J. Singerman, MD, Cleveland, Ohio
Richard F. Spaide, MD, New York, NY
Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, Nashville, Tenn
Michael T. Trese, MD, Royal Oak, Mich
George A. Williams, MD, Royal Oak, Mich
Lawrence A. Yannuzzi, MD, New York, NY


Retinal Physician, Issue: June 2007