Safeguarding patient privacy in electronic healthcare in the USA: The legal view

Diana Walsh, Katia Passerini, Upkar Varshney, Jerry Fjermestad

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The conflict between the sweeping power of technology to access and assemble personal information and the ongoing concern about our privacy and security is ever increasing. While we gradually need higher electronic access to medical information, issues relating to patient privacy and reducing vulnerability to security breaches surmount. In this paper, we take a legal perspective and examine the existing patchwork of laws and obligations governing health information in the USA. The study finds that as Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) increase in scope and dissemination, privacy protections gradually decrease due to the shortcomings in the legal system. The contributions of this paper are (1) an overview of the legal EMR issues in the USA, and (2) the identification of the unresolved legal issues and how these will escalate when health information is transmitted over wireless networks. More specifically, the paper discusses federal and state government regulations such as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and judicial intervention. Based on the legal overview, the unresolved challenges are identified and suggestions for future research are included.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-326
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Electronic Healthcare
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jan 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics


  • Confidentiality
  • EHRs
  • EMRs
  • Electronic health records
  • Electronic healthcare
  • Electronic medical records
  • Health insurance portability and accountability act
  • Privacy
  • Security


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