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Officials at the ‘U' cracking down on privacy policies

Officials at the ‘U' cracking down on privacy policies



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Becky Bruce reportingThe University of Utah's Health Sciences departments, including the medical center and medical school, are taking a long hard look at privacy.

An internal audit performed in the last half of 2007 turned up some privacy concerns that need to be addressed. In some cases, families getting post-surgery updates were being briefed in the waiting room instead of a private area.

Spokesman Chris Nelson says for the most part, the issues came in areas where the public can't go. He says, "On the clinical care side, we're pretty -- we're already pretty good at that. Where we probably have some opportunities to improve is when you get into our administrative areas, kind of the doctors' administrative offices." Nelson says many of the changes are already in place. Nelson says some of the changes are aimed at enforcing existing policy by retraining employees about how to handle private information.

Nelson says the audit is pretty routine. He says, "We really value internal audits here, because what we find is that if we can find our challenges and opportunities we have for improvement internally, then when other groups like the federal government come in, we're much better prepared."

The upshot is that the University has an internal audit department that randomly checks out different areas of the school. In this case, they were looking to find strengths and weaknesses in the way the U protects private information about patients. In addition to the University of Utah Medical Center, the auditors looked at the Huntsman Cancer Hospital and the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the Moran Eye Center and the Orthopaedic Center. But the changes will apply not just to those places but also the medical school and other educational areas.

The Privacy and Information Security Office plans to follow up within the next six months to a year to make sure the changes being implemented or already in place are sticking.

E-mail: bbruce@ksl.com

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