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The EMR pitfall

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The health care industry got a shot in the arm today with IBM's announcement of an 8-year, $402 million partnership with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The company claimed that this will be a model for how the health care industry can use new technology. The news comes on the heels of poor earnings announcement by IBM earlier this month. While IBM is licking its fresh wounds, it is aggressively pursuing and expanding into lucrative sectors to breathe life into its ailing earnings.

This is good news indeed. Technology has already had a great impact on the health care industry and that is wonderful for patients. There is no doubt that this new initiative would further enhance how patients' vital data is handled. Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Electronic Health Records (EHR) are nothing new. Plainly stated, they are patients' records on computer databases. But as new frontiers are explored, EMRs will become precariously closer to falling into wrong hands.

Consider the spate of news about stolen data from a number of prominent companies lately. LexisNexis, Polo Ralph Lauren, HSBC, NCR, and a number of renowned universities around the nation have had security breaches with customer data stolen. These are not fly-by-night companies with half-baked products. They are brands that most consumers trust and rely on.

If we are doomed to repeat past mistakes, then companies must be prepared to defend the EMR data with everything they have. But going a step further, they had better have plans in place for when security is breached and data is stolen. Because, let's face it, it is inevitable.

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