Written by James Sherrod
James can be reached at James@halseynews.com for questions or comments
Government based healthcare has long been debated in the United States. It has been promoted over the years using such names as socialized medicine, universal healthcare, ObamaCare, and most recently, single-payer healthcare. According to pewresearch, public support is growing. In a recent study they claim 60% of Americans believe it is the governments responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare. Though not enough Americans understand anything about the issue of cyber-security.
The debate over government healthcare typically revolves around money, and often devolves into both sides claiming the moral high ground by exploiting victims of their opponent. Although there have been many debates on single-payer healthcare, one potential downfall that is overlooked is cyber-security.
What does going to the doctor have to do with cyber-security? Well, these days, quite a lot actually. Nearly every piece of information you share with your healthcare and insurance providers is stored electronically. Unfortunately, these electronic healthcare records have a poor record for security. In 2015 alone 100 million health care records were stolen. That was an 11,000% increase from the prior year.
Why are your medical records being targeted? Simple. They are valuable and they are vulnerable. Your medical records are valuable because they contain every piece of personal and financial information a criminal could ever want. Electronic healthcare records are 100 to 1,000 times more valuable on the black market than a credit card number. Beyond that, medical records may contain very personal information ideal for blackmailing an individual.
Electronic healthcare records are vulnerable because they are part of massive centralized databases. Due to their enormous size, these databases are very vulnerable to internal attacks. They are also highly rewarding to any would-be attacker. A single breech gains access to millions of records.
As healthcare becomes more and more centralized, so do all of the healthcare records. We have already seen this happen as healthcare providers and insurance companies consolidate electronic records into more centralized databases.
So, what does the government have to do with this? Whether you call it socialized medicine or single payer, government based healthcare is the ultimate centralization. In order for the government to be responsible for the healthcare of every citizen, they must require access to the medical records of every citizen. What this boils down to is the medical records of the entire United States population becoming one very large and very vulnerable pot of gold. This is especially concerning given the United States government’s history of cyber security failures.
The use of electronic medical records instead of paper records is inevitable. So what is the solution? In this case the solution is the opposite of the problem. We must make electronic healthcare records less valuable and less vulnerable. But how? You could remove all of the identity and financial information from the medical records, thereby reducing their value. Besides being extremely unrealistic, this would all but guarantee unsustainable levels of fraud within the healthcare system.
The only real solution left is to decentralize healthcare. Increasing the number of healthcare providers, each with their own uniquely secure databases. The size of these smaller databases makes them inherently less vulnerable and less valuable targets. Cyber attacks will still occur, and could actually increase, however the number of affected people would decrease. A single attack may only gain access to a few thousand medical records instead of tens or hundreds of millions. This results in the population of the United States being being safer as a whole, in regards to stolen healthcare records.
The next time you find yourself discussing healthcare reform, consider the impact cyber-security may have in shaping the future of healthcare in the United States.