Carnegie Mellon University
Skip navigation and jump directly to page content

April 15: Carnegie Mellon's Anupam Datta Joins Multi-University Research Effort To Study Security and Privacy of Health Information


Chriss Swaney     

Carnegie Mellon's Anupam Datta Joins Multi-University
Research Effort To Study Security and Privacy of Health Information

dattaPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Anupam Datta is part of a multi-institutional research team that received a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce security and privacy barriers to the meaningful use of health information technology.
Datta, an assistant research professor with Carnegie Mellon CyLab, is one of 20 senior investigators from 12 universities involved in this collaborative project named Strategic Healthcare IT Advanced Research Projects on Security (SHARPS). Carnegie Mellon's portion of the award is $700,000.
The SHARPS team will focus on three health information environments — electronic health records (EHR), health information exchange (HIE) and telemedicine (TEL) — that are becoming increasingly popular in spite of security concerns with their use. Datta's research group plans to contribute to both the EHR and HIE thrusts in collaboration with other project investigators.
The move from paper to electronic health records in health care organizations holds great promise for more effective delivery of health care. Health care providers, such as primary physicians, can more easily access patient information at the local point of care. In addition, exchange of health information is easier, potentially allowing a hospital in a different location to easily access health records when a patient is traveling or relocating. However, the introduction of health information technology also raises new challenges for patient privacy and the security of electronic health records.
"It is important to ensure that electronic health records do not fall into the wrong hands and are not used for purposes that do not further the goal of providing more effective health care," Datta said. "One of the aims of this project is to show how to make the computerization of health care systems live up to the promise of more innovative health care while at the same time providing confidence that privacy expectations of patients are respected."
The award, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will help the SHARPS team develop security and risk mitigation policies and the technologies necessary to build and preserve the public trust as health IT systems gain widespread use.
"The research effort is inherently interdisciplinary: it requires an understanding of existing health care privacy regulations, such as the HIPAA and HITECH acts, formulation of new socially acceptable privacy policies for patient-centric health information systems, such as Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault, as well as technology for access control and audits to support the enforcement of such policies in health care organizations.  Our team of computer scientists, health care specialists and social scientists is uniquely positioned to take on this challenge," said Datta, an expert in information security and privacy at Carnegie Mellon CyLab, one of the nation's largest academic cybersecurity research centers.    
In addition to Carnegie Mellon, other institutions tapped to collaborate in the SHARPS program include: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (which is heading the research effort); Dartmouth College; Harvard University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Johns Hopkins University and Children's Medical and Surgical Center; New York University; Northwestern University and Memorial Hospital; Stanford University; University of California, Berkley; the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; the University of Washington; and Vanderbilt University.


Pictured above is Anupam Datta, an assistant research professor with Carnegie Mellon CyLab.