Ensuring a safe(r) harbor: Excising personally identifiable information from structured electronic health record data
Pfaff ER., Haendel MA., Kostka K., Lee A., Niehaus E., Palchuk MB., Walters K., Chute CG.
Abstract Recent findings have shown that the continued expansion of the scope and scale of data collected in electronic health records are making the protection of personally identifiable information (PII) more challenging and may inadvertently put our institutions and patients at risk if not addressed. As clinical terminologies expand to include new terms that may capture PII (e.g., Patient First Name, Patient Phone Number), institutions may start using them in clinical data capture (and in some cases, they already have). Once in use, PII-containing values associated with these terms may find their way into laboratory or observation data tables via extract-transform-load jobs intended to process structured data, putting institutions at risk of unintended disclosure. Here we aim to inform the informatics community of these findings, as well as put out a call to action for remediation by the community.