HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Daniel Paul Professor of the Practice of Government and Technology, HKS and FAS


We define a new approach to locating and replacing personally-identifying information in medical records that extends beyond straight search-and-replace procedures, and we provide techniques for minimizing risk to patient confidentiality. The straightforward approach of global search and replace properly located no more than 30-60% of all personally-identifying information that appeared explicitly in our sample database. On the other hand, our Scrub system found 99-100% of these references. Scrub uses detection algorithms that employ templates and specialized knowledge of what constitutes a name, address, phone number and so forth.


Sweeney, Latanya. "Replacing Personally-Identifying Information in Medical Records, the Scrub System." Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (1996): 333-337.