In an unprecedented move that has chilling implications for personal privacy, the State of Nebraska has begun the mass collection of digital health data on all its citizens, Reclaim The Net reported.
This initiative, part of a state Health Information Technology (HIT) Board’s mandate, consolidates health records in a way that has never been done before, raising alarm over the state’s direction toward a possible national digital ID system and the specter of surveillance that could follow.
The Nebraska Legislature made a law (LB 411) that says all healthcare facilities must share their health records in this system to help patients and improve how healthcare works together.
But, if a facility finds it too hard or impossible to do this because of tech issues, they need to fill out a waiver to explain their situation. The Health Information Technology Board will look at their reasons and decide if they can be excused from joining this system.
Centralized under the auspices of CyncHealth, the health data of over five million patients from 1,100 healthcare institutions are being compiled into a single, sprawling digital database.
While the initiative is championed by some for its potential to streamline healthcare and improve medical outcomes, a growing cohort of privacy advocates and concerned citizens are sounding the alarm about the grave implications this broad data collection could have on the sanctity of personal information.
According to its website, the purpose of the HIT Board is to:
- Establish criteria for data collection and disbursement by the statewide health information exchange and the prescription drug monitoring program to improve the quality of information provided to clinicians;
- Evaluate and ensure that the statewide health information exchange is meeting technological standards for reporting of data for the prescription drug monitoring program, including the data to be collected and reported and the frequency of data collection and disbursement;
- Provide the governance oversight necessary to ensure that any health information in the statewide health information exchange and the prescription drug monitoring program may be accessed, used, or disclosed only in accordance with the privacy and security protections set forth in HIPAA;
- Provide recommendations to the statewide health information exchange on any other matters referred to the board.
The HIT Board, sanctioned unanimously by the Nebraska legislature in 2020 to centralize health records, is now seen by some as an Orwellian instrument that poses a dramatic threat to civil liberties. The Board consists of 17 members appointed by the governor and ratified by the legislature.
These members, whose expertise spans various sectors of the healthcare industry, now hold the keys to a kingdom of data previously kept in silos.
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Critics such as Stacey Skold, Ph.D., a board member of the Children’s Health Defense Nebraska Chapter, express their worry over how briskly this system has amassed health data. They perceive it as an alarming stride towards a digital ID and central bank digital currency (CBDC).
The Nebraska government’s decision to establish statewide information exchange via CyncHealth and the associated data harvesting evoked concerns among privacy advocates. Observing the HIT Board meetings further intensified these fears when it was disclosed that partner company CyncHealth was part of CARIN Alliance, a global coalition advocating for digital ID, and had affiliations with corporate giants like Google and Microsoft.
Prominent digital privacy expert Greg Glaser stated that the fast-paced digitization of health data in Nebraska was an ominous sign. He warned that digital IDs, rather than being mere aids for consumer convenience, would introduce an unprecedented level of control over individuals.