Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Keeping Medical Data Private

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have developed an algorithm that simultaneously protects privacy of patients while allowing medical records to be used for research on the genetics of disease.

The new method, published online April 12 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, simply disguises parts of the medical history data that are not relevant to a geneticist’s specific research question using an algorithm that looks through health records and makes some aspects of them more general.
“We’re hoping that it’s a game-changer,” says Bradley Malin, a biomedical informatics specialist from Vanderbilt University in Nashville who helped develop the method. The problem is, it's not all that difficult to follow a specific set of codes backward and identify a person, says Malin.

See articles in Science News and MIT's Technology Review.