The core functions of public health all depend intrinsically on information (AMA 2008). In order to conduct assessment, for example, the Institute of Medicine reports in The Future of Public Health that public health agencies must “regularly and systematically collect, assemble, analyze, and make available information on the health of the community, including statistics on health status, community health needs, and epidemiologic and other studies of health problems.” In order to develop effective policy, health officials require timely and accurate data. It is clear that the demand for such information is increasing and becomes ever more important as the public health community moves into the information age (Etzioni 1999). The digitizing, storage, and transmission of sensitive health data raise serious new questions about which personnel may access the data, under what circumstances it should be available, how it should be used appropriately, and the protection of the integrity of the data.
AMA Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 5.07 and Its Repercussions
Recent high-profile instances of the breakdown of privacy measures in the health setting, such as the example of the Florida State employee who allegedly offered confidential HIV data from a state database for the perusal of his acquaintances, underscore the need for care in these matters. This study offers a survey of the condition of various privacy, confidentiality, and security measures that are currently employed in U.S. state health agencies, as well as an assessment of the current state of such measures.
This current study may be viewed in the context of the AMA code of medical ethics opinion 5.07, Public Health Telecommunication Infrastructure in State Health Agencies, which demonstrated that information technology is already in widespread use, although substantial inter-agency variation exists among the state health ...