The efficiency of modern health care relies more and more upon a computerised infrastructure. Open distributed information systems have started to bring professionals together from all over the world. On the one hand easy processing and communication of images, sounds and texts will help to represent and treat illnesses and diseases efficiently, on the other hand the very ease of access and use can threaten patient privacy, accountability and health care professional secrecy. The European Union (ED) initiated a multi-disciplinary project to come up with practical guidelines detailing how to achieve a Secure Environment for Information Systems in MEDicine (SEISMED). The project has taken into account the traditional and proven principles of health care data processing, the various legislative environments within the EU, the enormous and subtle risks to the security of health care information systems, and the cost of changing existing technology. The guidelines have been validated by the SEISMED reference centres.
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