‘Big Data’ Report Outlines Successes, Concerns for Health Care

May 6, 2014 in News

Last week, the Obama administration released a report that examines how the large-scale collection of consumer data across various industries, including health care, could affect millions of U.S. residents’ online privacy, the Washington Post‘s “The Switch” reports (Hamburger/Tsukayama, “The Switch,” Washington Post, 5/1).

Report Details

The report was written by a group of senior administration officials led by White House counselor John Podesta. For the report, the working group solicited input from hundreds of stakeholders, including those in academia and the technology industry. The report examines how the public and private sectors in health care and other industries can benefit from the use of big data while reducing risks (Government Technology, 5/2).


For example, Podesta in a blog post announcing the report highlighted efforts by CMS to use predictive analytics to identify cases of reimbursement fraud before claims are paid (Gross, Computer World, 5/1). He wrote, “The Fraud Prevention System helps identify the highest-risk health care providers for waste, fraud and abuse in real time and has already stopped, prevented or identified $115 million in fraudulent payments” (White House blog, 5/1).


The report also noted how big data could be used to further medical research (Rampton/Holland, Reuters, 5/1).


In addition, the report highlights the need for more research into the preservation of anonymity in health care data. The report states, “Once data [are] collected, [the information] can be very difficult to keep anonymous” (Tucker, Defense One, 5/1).


According to the “The Switch,” the report also raised concerns about how large amounts of consumer data could be collected and used to discriminate against individuals applying for health care, jobs or housing (“The Switch,” Washington Post, 5/5).


In the report, the authors make six recommendations on steps the government can take to better protect U.S. residents’ privacy without limiting the benefits of big data, Politico reports (Gerstein/Byers, Politico, 5/1).

The authors recommend that:

  • The Department of Commerce create draft legislation on how big data affect the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights;
  • Congress pass national data breach legislation;
  • Lawmakers amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to update online standards;
  • The federal government extend protections under the Privacy Act of 1974 to non-U.S. residents;
  • The federal government ensure data being collected are used appropriately; and
  • The federal government’s civil rights and consumer protection agencies expand technical expertise to curb discrimination (Government Technology, 5/2).
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