Protecting Patients’ Medical Records

Health care professionals can harness technology in incredible ways to improve patient care. Cloud-based services, for example, enable doctors to analyze thousands of patients’ records to make better treatment decisions and enhance patient service. However, health care providers should prepare for network threats and attacks, as well as data protection, when using cloud technology in their practice.

Physicians’ groups and laboratories must ensure that their network and security practices comply with legal requirements. Patient confidentiality must be protected, and when the network is breached, extensive legal notification procedures may be required. In its final rule on the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ruled that patients are entitled to get their medical test results from laboratories. The secretary of HHS explained that, among other things, the ruling is designed to help patients track their health progress. A few notable aspects of this change:

  • Laboratories must permit patients to access their health information, while protecting patients’ security by ensuring that such sensitive information is not accessible to others. The ruling increases the need for secure storage, transmission and remote access of medical records.
  • Laboratories must ensure the individual requesting records has a right to access them, in addition to preventing medical data breaches.
  • To comply with the rule, laboratories need to spend millions of dollars to develop systems that can process patient requests within the required 30-day time frame.
  • In general, the risk of security breaches increases whenever more user groups have access to data.

The resounding conclusion of tech experts is: “All health care systems are under attack. Lab systems won’t be any different.” To ensure compliance with laws regarding the confidentiality and security of patient medical information, consult a health care compliance attorney who can help you develop and implement an effective compliance program that protects your practice and your patients.

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Posted in: Compliance