health information database “security”

Several years ago, South Carolina created a database with every controlled prescription filled in the state. Every month, pharmacists like myself upload a file to nanny government with any prescription that you have filled that is controlled. Controlled drugs are in 5 categories. Schedule I is illegal stuff like heroin that we don’t dispense. Schedule II is the strongest pain medications like Oxycontin and morphine. Schedule III is mainly things like hydrocodone (Lortab, Vicodin, & Lorcet). Schedule IV lists anxiety and sleeping aids (Ambien, Xanax, & Ativan). Schedule V drugs are usually things like cough syrups that contain opiates.

The intention of this database was to target prescription drug overuse and illegal street sales.

Like most government actions, the intentions are good, but like most government actions, things like personal privacy and individual liberties get trampled on. The database is supposed to be protected with “probable cause” language. However, the implementation is a simple check box when healthcare providers log on to the database to search patient information. Here is the screen shot from my computer:
Screenshot 2013-11-05 12.46.53

I know by clicking this box, the searcher acknowledges the consequences of illegally obtaining information, but this database needs more protection. I’ve always opposed this database but you’ll probably agree that we need to tighten up the access.

Now DHEC is requiring daily uploads and law enforcement has publicized their desire to increase “mining” activity. I’ll be sponsoring a bill that requires a court order for anyone in law enforcement that wants to “mine” this sensitive information.