The Challenges of Keeping Electronic Medical Records Secure

Technology provides undeniable benefits to medical recordkeeping. A computerized system allows medical care providers to store and share crucial patient information more cost-effectively and efficiently than the outmoded paper file method. Essential information can be transferred almost instantaneously so a doctor can base treatment decisions on a patient’s complete history. Records from multiple sources can be combined into a single file so patients can avoid duplicate and unnecessary diagnostic procedures. Electronic data is quickly backed up to an offsite server to protect against destruction by fire, flood or natural disaster.

Indeed, electronic records can streamline a patient’s medical care and cut costs. However, certain potential drawbacks may put patients at risk. Consider some of the possible medical IT complications and concerns:

  • Unauthorized disclosure of confidential patient information in violation of HIPAA
  • Hacking or virus that allows unauthorized access to patients’ private records
  • Tampering with records, such as backdating, modification or fraudulent entries
  • Server crash that results in lost data or interruption in medical care
  • Unintentional stripping of viewing rights during a surgical procedure
  • Typos and inaccuracies introduced into patients’ records and then duplicated
  • Accidental deletion of patient information or files

Medical care providers may face malpractice lawsuits, disciplinary action or government fines if a patient suffers harm as a result of a mistake or a security breach. Hospitals, clinics, labs and doctors’ offices have a duty to take precautionary measures such as the following:

  • Encrypt patient information
  • Back up data to a secure offsite location
  • Limit who is permitted to access patient records
  • Require secure passwords to gain access to patient files
  • Monitor the system for viruses and suspicious activity
  • Update technology
  • Develop effective IT policies and guidelines

During the next decade, computerization of the medical industry will likely grow more prevalent, making attention to IT safeguards critical to all health care providers. If a medical record breach does occur, health care professionals should act immediately to protect their patients and themselves and avoid a lawsuit.

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Posted in: Regulation