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A medical record is crucial to patient care and is a common sight in every healthcare facility and medical practice. As an essential piece of documentation, a paper medical record should always be kept safe with an adequate security measure and other safeguards against unauthorized access.

But how should manual medical records be stored and secured, and is there a better way of making sure that health records stay out of the wrong hands? Any paper record can be adequately protected with physical safeguards, employee protocols, and patient authorization. However, one of the best ways to keep this type of document safe is to convert it into an electronic health record.

Essential Steps In Protecting Physical Records

Many practices today still use a paper record to keep track of a patient’s condition and overall medical treatment, and these paper records require a specific set of safeguards to ensure that no unauthorized person gains access to them. The most significant challenge that your practice will have to overcome with keeping manual medical records is their physicality: while it can be convenient to your staff and physicians, it also presents a unique set of challenges in making sure that crucial patient data stays private and secure.

Here are several steps that you should consider when protecting your practice’s depository of paper medical records:

1. Authorized Access

The first thing that practices should always ask themselves is “who has access to these records?” Given that the likelihood of these records changing hands is quite frequent depending on the patient, it’s easy for paper records to end up in the possession of someone not authorized to have them. This can be problematic for several reasons, including but not limited to:

To counteract this, your practice must have a process and personnel list of everyone who can access and change information on a patient’s medical record at any given time. This can limit the risk of a third party accessing or tampering with patient data while the health record is outside your archives, and it makes any investigation easier if possible tampering has been detected in the record itself.

One way that you can increase accountability in document access is by requiring anyone who makes a change to a medical record to log their identity and the exact nature of their changes in the record itself. While this approach may add more time that your doctors, nurses, or other medical staff spend on record-keeping, it ensures that any change that’s made to medical records can be traced back to the specific staff member that did it.

Granting authorized access can also be delegated to higher-ranking staff members in case of multiple patients working on one doctor, though keep in mind that you should carefully screen these permissions before approving them. Authorized access isn’t necessarily limited to medical staff in your practice – interdepartmental couriers, record-keepers, and even maintenance staff should always be checked for their capacity to access your medical records.

2. Physical Safeguards

One of the simplest and most effective ways to store and secure medical records is to introduce some kind of physical safeguard to their access. This can vary depending on the size of the practice and the type of medical records that you keep, ranging from a locked filing cabinet to an entire wing of medical records for a larger institute. The crucial point to remember is to make it as hard as possible for any unauthorized personnel to physically gain access to medical records.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that physical safeguards are only as effective as the number of people that know how to get past them – or in this case, authorized access. Medical practices and institutions should also be careful to not let these physical safeguards affect the efficiency and ease of accessing these medical records, especially when the patient in question is going through different diagnoses and tests.

Physical safeguards also need a system that can help anyone who accesses them to navigate their contents to find the exact medical record that they need, so implementing a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand filing system is a necessity for a practice looking to protect paper records. Any further changes and improvements to physical access can be discussed with your building planner or any contractor assigned to work on your healthcare facility.

3. Document Preservation

An often-overlooked area of storing and securing medical records is the preservation of the records themselves. As physical objects that are handled regularly (or as long as the patient remains within the institute) a paper medical record can go through significant wear and tear before finally being filed away. Even after it’s been properly categorized and indexed, the environment that it settles in can significantly affect the quality of the record as it ages.

While larger medical institutions and practices can afford to seal paper documents in high-tech solutions like vaults, smaller organizations or groups need to make do with implementing a set of best practices to ensure that their paper documents don’t deteriorate with age. These can be included, but not limited to:

Document preservation is especially crucial in practices that contain primary care health records since these are often consulted even late into the patient’s life. Your process should always have a three-fold approach with document preservation: how to file it, how to store it, and how to access it when it's needed. While you can introduce some variation of the practices discussed above, you also need to make sure that the exact storage of these documents is conducive to their state.

4. Process For Data Release

Finally, there are occasions where other institutions or the patient may ask for a copy of their medical records. According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, your patient is a covered entity that has a legal right to obtain a copy of their medical record whenever they want it, alongside other institutions like other health providers, state and federal governments, and other healthcare organizations. While it may seem like a simple matter to verify the identity of the person requesting the release of medical data, there are strict guidelines (or HIPAA compliance) that you must follow when releasing medical information.

This is because the HIPAA privacy rule offers protections and legal recourse for a patient who’s had their health data mishandled – and any HIPAA violations can severely sanction your medical practice and open you up to lawsuits. To prevent this from happening, practices need to implement official procedures and guidelines to follow regarding the release of medical documents, especially if copies are being made and distributed to other people aside from the patient.

One way to protect yourself from litigation is to always ask if the requesting party has patient authorization to retrieve the medical information they’re asking for and to make a record of everyone who is involved in this transfer of information. Because there’s very little that you can do once you’ve handed over the paper record, making meticulous notes about the people involved in the data transfer can potentially shield you from any lawsuits if the data you released was compromised in some way.

While these steps aren’t the be-all and end-all to making sure a patient’s medical history isn’t compromised, it’s an excellent start for any practice looking to improve its data protection and security against unauthorized access. You can refine or improve on these steps in your own practice if time and budgets allow, but the spirit of these guidelines must be strictly followed.

Why Using Electronic Records Is Better

Business Characters at Huge Laptop with Folders on Screen Illustration

Paper records can be protected in a variety of ways by a medical practice, but their ultimate flaw – that they’re physical copies of data – can be extremely difficult to solve long-term. To counteract these limitations when it comes to data security, most medical practices and institutions have increasingly switched to electronic record-keeping software and systems, which offer a variety of benefits over manual record-keeping.

There are several advantages that your practice can enjoy once you make the switch to electronic records:

1. Efficient Handling Of Patient Data

The first significant benefit to switching to an electronic record system is the ease that your staff will be able to enjoy when updating a patient’s chart. In particular, an electronic medical record (or EMR) software effectively digitizes your patient charts, allowing them to be updated in real-time and cross-referenced with other similar electronic records.

This also makes the issue of tracking changes and authorized access much easier to manage, as electronic logs will be automatically generated whenever someone makes a change to the medical record. This improves both the processing of the patient and the quality of their care, as multiple staff members can examine, make changes, and overall monitor the patient without having to worry about jostling each other for room on the record.

2. Easier Transfer Of Health Information

For patients that are transferred into or out of your healthcare facility, an electronic health record (or EHR) system is the best way to ensure that every part of their previous and ongoing treatments is properly logged for the departing and incoming medical staff. While the electronic form of this particular health record doesn’t exempt it from HIPAA privacy rules, it becomes easier to both disseminate and track medical records released to requesting parties without having to constantly ask for verification from either them or your client.

This ease of transfer can also help your practice if there are specialists or specific wards in your healthcare facility that a patient will need to cycle through. By keeping an electronic record of their journey through your treatment facilities, your medical staff can easily consult any essential health data between transfers to ensure that everyone is on the same page with the care of your patient.

3. Increased Protections While Maintaining Easier Access

Finally, an electronic record can make it more difficult for any unauthorized personnel to gain access to medical records while simultaneously keeping them accessible for those who do have authorization. Since you’re not dealing with physical documents that can be changed, altered, or stolen, security becomes easier to manage without having to invest significant time and resources on physical safeguards. By using a platform that guarantees data security while keeping ease of access, you’re better equipped to improve patient confidentiality while keeping your own operations relatively smooth.

With electronic records, you now have access to powerful and useful features such as end-to-end encryption, cloud storage, and multi-layered protection to help safeguard your patient data. And while these protections are certainly robust, they don’t get in the way of any authorized access. This removes the problem of physically locating, unlocking, and withdrawing any physical medical records, with the added versatility and freedom of access from any authorized device.

Of course, you should keep in mind that there will be some hurdles in the implementation of an electronic record system into your practice – and your system will only be as good as the provider that you obtain it from. But a medical practice or institution that can successfully integrate a platform for their medical records is well-equipped to survive the demands of today’s increasingly data-driven world.

Keep Patient Records Safe With Electronic Record Keeping Software

Healthcare records are some of the most important pieces of patient data that a health care provider or medical practice can ever handle, and it's your responsibility to use robust security measures and safeguards to make sure that no unauthorized person gains access to patient medical records. By using electronic medical records instead of paper documents, any healthcare organization is better equipped to handle protected health information with confidentiality.

Calysta EMR has extensive experience in providing records management services to any health provider with its EMR software and EHR systems. By using electronic records of patient information, any healthcare provider can improve their patient confidentiality and reduce the likelihood of a data breach for important documents. For more information about how our electronic record systems can help keep a patient's health record safe, contact us today for a consultation.

Thousands of electronic medical records are stolen by hackers every year from hospitals, clinics, and any other healthcare organization. Data breaches have become so common in the daily news that we often don’t consider the true ramifications of millions of compromised accounts, simply because we don’t see the problem ever directly affecting us. But 1 out of every 4 cyberattacks is targeted to businesses in the health care industry, with hackers aiming for the personal health records of health systems’ patients.

But why exactly do hackers target hospital databases for medical information so often? Many people underestimate the value that a huge collection of medical records can be for a person or group with certain intentions. Simply put, an electronic health record is a treasure trove of information, containing all the vital information of a person, including their full name, financial information, address history, social security number, and more. This information is more than enough for hackers to take out a loan, set up a credit line, and other acts of fraud and medical identity theft.

The Value of Medical Information To Hackers

Hospitals and health care organizations find themselves in need of updating their cyber security and safeguards as often as possible, with hackers aiming for the treasure trove of patient medical information available in every health care provider and hospital’s database.

With a medical record collection, hackers usually take the medical data to the darknet or the online black market, putting them up for sale to the highest bidder. Some of the things that buyers can do with this information include:

In fact, the selling of medical information stolen from the healthcare sector on the darknet is so prevalent that it can take cybersecurity experts just seconds to find hotspots of stolen health records for sale online. These patient records stolen from the healthcare industry also don’t go for cheap, with a single patient’s full health records sometimes selling for up to $1,000 each. Credit card information and Social Security numbers only sell for up to $100 each, which is why hackers are always trying to break into hospital databases.

In one case, a hacker known as “thedarkoverlord” had 655,000 stolen medical records from three large hospital databases up for sale for nearly $700,000; he attempted to ransom the remaining unsold health records back to the hospitals afterwards. This is known as a ransomware attack.

8 Practical Tips To Protect Your Data From Hackers 

1) Establish Cybersecurity Practices and Policies

Medspas hold the same amount of information as any medical office, making them just as vulnerable to a healthcare data breach. If your aesthetic clinic doesn’t have cybersecurity policies and practices in place, now is the time to get started. One of the most important things to do is to have your entire network assessed by a cybersecurity expert. Taking into account all medical devices and software you use, including your EMR software, IT providers can hook you up with vulnerability management software and help you develop good cybersecurity practices. 

2) Regularly Back Up Your Healthcare Data

More often than not, hackers might decide to hold your own health data ransom once they get into your system. This cyber attack involves the installation of an encrypting device to perform ransomware where the hackers threaten to erase all your data or keep it under lock and key until you pay a ransom. The only problem with this is that paying hackers don’t always guarantee that you’ll get your stolen data back. 

With regular backups, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your patients’ health information is stored securely elsewhere. When picking an EMR software, look into whether it performs automatic backups in the background just like Calysta EMR. 

3) Conduct Cybersecurity Training 

Aesthetic clinics and healthcare facilities are just as vulnerable as physician offices. Conducting cybersecurity training either in-house or with the help of IT experts is useful in making sure your employees don’t fall for the usual scams. With the evolving landscape of cyberattacks, most people don’t know what to expect next. With regular training, you’ll significantly reduce the risk you’re putting on your patient data because your employees will be aware of the usual tactics involved. 

4) Limit Access 

One great way to significantly reduce the risk of a medical data breach is by limiting access to pertinent information to executive-level employees only. Not everyone on your team should have access to the sensitive personal information or even crucial business data. By limiting your team’s access to information and data that is relevant to them, you reduce the risk of exposing the entire network should a breach occur. 

5) Create Separate WiFi Networks

Malicious cybercriminals could piggyback from vulnerable patient devices. Create a separate wifi channel for public access. This way, attackers won’t have a free ride into connected devices through the wifi network. 

6) Maintain An Anti-Virus Software For Your Devices 

Antivirus software would be your first line of defense against malicious attackers. As cyberattacks become more sophisticated, so too have anti-virus software. Vulnerability management software at the enterprise level, and even next-generation anti-virus software, have all been designed to add an extra layer of protection for your aesthetic clinic’s network and its data, keeping it safe from malicious malware and viruses.

7) Encrypt Devices 

Just like installing anti-virus software across all devices, data encryption can help when it comes to stolen or missing devices. Encryption ensures that any sensitive data and information are only visible by those who need to see it. 

8) Change Passwords Regularly 

Even if you already think you have the perfect password no hacker or malicious software could crack, it’s still highly recommended to regularly change your passwords, at least once every few months. It’s also important to use a variety of passwords, ideally a unique password for each login, as you never know which database has been compromised and sold to hackers targeting other industries.

Safe and Secure Aesthetic Medical Records With Calysta EMR

Calysta EMR is the electronic medical healthcare record solution perfectly fitted for all aesthetic clinics and practices. Our EMR solution is designed and safeguarded specifically for aesthetic service providers, and we have helped countless aesthetic providers give their patients the safest and most secure EMR experience ever.

Learn more about Calysta EMR and start your free trial with our EMR service today.

A patient record can come in many different forms depending on the healthcare organization or medical practice that issued it, but it should still contain the essential health data required for medical professionals to use to improve patient outcomes. Whether it's a primary care doctor referring to a specialist or a physician handling a cosmetic case gone wrong, a patient health record is a must-have, especially if it's in electronic form.

But what exactly does an electronic medical record include? Basically, an EMR is a digital version of a patient's chart in a practice. It contains everything relevant to the patient's care and treatment within that specific practice, including details about the prescriptions they have, the medical routines they undergo, and their diagnoses. An EMR can be accessible by doctors only, but can also be distributed to patients via a patient portal.

What's Inside An Electronic Medical Record?

One thing to note about an EMR is that because of the different specializations and practices in the healthcare industry, the exact format and information that you can find in one EMR can differ from the next. Depending on the EMR vendor, these differences can easily be integrated into your EMR system without much difficulty.

However, here are the absolute essentials that every electronic medical record should have:

1. Your Patient's Medical History

Above all else, the most important things about your patient's medical history should be in an EMR. Their condition, official diagnosis, treatment plans, and other medical procedures done on them should always be clearly stated and visible in an EMR, as it's the first thing that your physician or doctor will be looking for as soon as that patient walks into your practice.

Keep in mind that this medical history may not always reflect their entire journey through the healthcare industry, but it should succinctly reflect the immediate concerns that your medical staff may have about your patient. Issues like allergies, drug interactions with any medicines they may be taking, or their treatment schedules should be clearly stated in their EMR for easy access at a glance.

2. Your Patient's Prescriptions

One of the primary uses of a patient's medical record is to keep track of any prescriptions that your doctor may have recommended to your patient. Using an EMR system makes this easy to review and evaluate every step of the patient's treatment plan, and is an extremely useful record for all medical staff to consult if said patient ever develops a complication relating to the medicine that they're taking.

An EMR can also be useful for your patient if they misplace their own prescriptions since it can function as a verifiable prescription that they can present to their pharmacy if they accept electronic records. This can be potentially life-saving if the patient needs a specific medication but hasn't brought the prescription for it: the accessible nature of EMRs (especially through a patient portal) can drastically improve patient outcomes in these situations.

3. Your Patient's Lab Results

For patients that have been confined to a medical institution or practice long term or simply have a lot of tests to go through for a diagnosis, EMRs are useful tools in helping doctors keep track of any past and upcoming tests they may have. This is useful across a wide range of different situations in medical practice, but it's also a simple way of keeping crucial health data accessible to cross-check any lab or test results against new diagnoses or developments on your client's condition.

Since an electronic health record can be updated in real-time, your patient can be processed faster and more efficiently compared to waiting for the paper records to catch up between different doctors and different tests. This is crucial in situations where the patient needs their test results quickly for a diagnosis, or simply to release a patient from your care if their condition has already been addressed. Either way, an EMR can drastically cut down the wait times of processing a patient through different tests and is a handy record to keep around your practice for future reference.

4. Your Doctor’s Notes

A doctor’s notes can take many different forms depending on the patient and their condition, but they’re always useful to consult in cases where the patient may be experiencing a rapid shift in their condition or are looking for referrals to specialists for better patient care. Doctor notes are crucial pieces of health data that can inform the patient, other doctors and medical professionals, and even members of your staff about the status of a patient and how much priority and attention they should be giving for their medical treatment.

One of the most common doctor’s notes that can be found in an EMR is SOAP notes (Subjective, Objective, Assessment and Plan), a widely-used documentation method for healthcare workers that can give a brief yet illuminating overview of the patient at the time of consultation. Consistent SOAP documentation of a patient throughout their stay in your practice or institution offers a much better view of how their care is progressing, and whether any changes need to be made.

Since most EMRs are only limited to the actual practice or medical institution that the patient is currently going to, the information on them tends to be brief and straight to the point. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive overview or method of keeping track of a patient’s medical treatment, you may be looking for an electronic health record.

EMR vs EHR

The difference between an electronic health record (EHR) and an electronic medical record (EMR) is quite simple: EHRs are simply better versions of EMRs. Not only do they contain an extensive overview of a patient’s medical history, diagnoses, and treatments, but they’re structured in such a way that allows easy sharing of information between medical professionals and practices. Using an EHR system or EHR software can help a receiving practice better care for a transferred patient, or impart useful notes when referring them to a specialist.

One thing to note about EMRs and EHRs is that both of them still fall under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which means that you need to check the exact ruling about sharing your patient’s medical information with any third parties, even if it’s another health care provider. Failure to comply with the HIPAA privacy rule can result in severe sanctions for your medical practice and may be grounds for legal action from your patient.

Secure Electronic Medical Records With EMR Software

Patient medical records can vary depending on the healthcare provider, but certain essentials should always be present in an electronic health record. By keeping health information in an easy-to-access platform like EMR software, it becomes easier for health care providers to improve their patient care and safeguard a patient's medical history and patient data.

Calysta EMR helps improve patient engagement by providing a healthcare facility or medical practice with an electronic record of their patient's care and personal health record. Aside from improving your practice's HIPAA compliance, we can also help your clinician or physician find crucial medical information about their patient without having to consult a paper medical record. For more information on our EMR system and how we can help with your patient's EHR, contact us today.

Also referred to as Electronic Health Records or EHR, Electronic Medical Records or EMR have become increasingly popular over the last decade as a substitute for paper charts and medical records. More and more hospitals and healthcare providers are opting to store important patient medical information on digital EMR rather than paper records for a number of reasons. Some of these reasons include improving quality of medical patient care across various healthcare professionals and doctors, reducing costs, and saving time for both patients and doctors.

But many patients ask: are electronic records a secure way of storing sensitive and private patient information? While there is always some risk involved with digitizing information, from dangers like hackers, viruses, and file corruption, there are plenty of safety precautions in place with most EMR platforms that keep the patient data nearly impervious to threats. 

The Threats Electronic Medical Records Face

Many people don’t realize just how often medical and healthcare institutions are targeted by cyber attacks. When you think of online theft and cybercrimes, you often associate it with hackers looking for bank accounts and credit card information. But nearly one in four cyberattacks are performed on a healthcare organization.

So why exactly are healthcare institutions a common target? The biggest reason here is that they are one of the biggest storehouses of non-financial patient information. Healthcare records have the most complete sets of protected health information on individuals, with records containing home addresses, patient health histories, Social Security numbers, and much more; and all of this patient data can be leveraged to perform fraud and identity theft.

One study by Accenture found that hospitals lose billions every year on EMR cyber attacks, with roughly 1 out of every 13 patients experiencing a hack on their data. While this may seem to imply that EMRs aren’t safe, that isn’t actually the case; with proper EMR system data encryption, cloud based EHR (electronic health record) or EMR systems can be just as safe as the information stored by any retailer or bank.

In most cases of electronic medical record protection, it is usually enough for a medical practice or hospital to just have standard encryption protection in place, as these alone are sufficient for keeping out most hackers and unauthorized guests. The latest and most trusted EMR systems on the market come with these encrypted data protection systems in place, including additional firewalls for added cybersecurity. It’s only when advanced hackers specifically target a clinic or hospital and have a way to get in that hospitals experience some kind of patient data breach.

Simply put, safeguards like firewalls and encryption are usually enough to keep medical records safe from attackers while EMRs are being transferred or just stored on their servers. 

So if these protective systems are enough to keep data safe in the healthcare industry, why exactly do hospitals experience so many data breaches? The answer is simple: human error.

Human Error When Dealing With EMR Security

The problem with large clinics and hospitals is the number of people working on the system, and the number of people involved in the use or delivery of the stored records. This includes everyone on staff, from nurses to claims and billings officers, to clinic staff to office staff, server administrators, and of course, the patients.

As patients have their natural HIPAA rights to request access to their medical records and store it on their home computers, most patients don’t realize that they are putting their medical records at risk by storing it on less secure home systems, systems which generally don’t have the same level of protection that clinics and hospitals have.

Patients storing records at home tend to use something known as a Personal Health Record or PHR, which is a digital, online, password-protected record that contains all relevant health information while managing and organizing the patient’s medical records. HIPAA regulations aren’t applied to Personal Health Records, making them less safe than healthcare facility and hospital databases.

EMRs are also slightly at risk with the HIPAA compliance patient privacy rules when it comes to insurers and employers, who sometimes have the right to access patient record data even if the patient doesn’t know about it. And the usual pitfalls of data safety can lead to EMRs becoming stolen, such as unsecure devices like a personal mobile device or computer, unknowingly allowing third party access, data security gaps in their home systems, and weak passwords and viruses.

Best Ways To Keep Your EMRs Safe

As a doctor or healthcare provider, how do you ensure that your EMR or EHR system is safe and secure for the benefit of you and your patients? Here are the best tips we can give to help maximize your cloud-based EMR software safety:

Safe, Secure, and Reliable EMR With Calysta EMR

Calysta EMR is one of the safest and most secure EMR vendor options for aesthetic clinics on the market, with a number of security features and other benefits to give aesthetic clinics the all-in-one EMR package they need to provide the best experience possible for their patients.

Learn more about Calysta EMR by viewing the rest of our site or contacting us today.

A health care provider has an extraordinary responsibility when it comes to protecting their patient records. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the HIPAA privacy rule protects a patient's electronic health record from illegal access, with HIPAA violations being punished severely no matter the status of the health care practitioner or medical practice.

But who exactly can access a patient's medical record, and do they always need a written authorization or a written request before gaining access? While all health care providers who are involved in the patient's medical care can access their health records, other entities that the patient has interacted with can also have access to protected health information, even without the need for patient authorization.

Who Are The Individuals/Organizations Who Can Access A Patient's Medical Records?

The HIPAA rule defines a "covered entity" as someone or a group of people who have a right to access patient records, granted that they have obtained the necessary permissions to do so. While you as a health care provider automatically have a stronger case to access your patient's medical information, keep in mind that accessing this information falls under a very strict set of rules.

However, it's not only healthcare providers who have access to protected health information. Some other entities and organizations have full rights to access a patient's records at any time, specifically if they come in a type of medical record that doesn't identify the patient.

Here's a list of individuals/organizations that have legal rights to a patient's medical information:

The Patient Themselves

As the subject of their own health record, your patients have a legal right to access their own medical records whenever they want them to. Under HIPAA rule, a healthcare provider has a maximum of 30 days to respond to a patient's request for their own medical records before your practice is hit with a HIPAA violation. You may extend this request past the initial 30 days, but you must give a reason as to why it's taking you that long.

A record request by a patient can usually cover everything that they've experienced under your care, from individual doctor notes to physician records about their condition. While most practices today (especially those that use an electronic health record) use a patient portal to disseminate this information, hard copies are still occasionally asked for as backup.

The Patient's Family Members (Or Authorized Caregiver)

In the case of stay-at-home nurses and other private medical staff, they also have a legal right to a patient's medical chart and other medical records if duly authorized by the patient themselves. Since their role involves the continuation of treatment at the patient's own home, they're classified as a covered entity under HIPAA rules and should be given a copy of patient records once their permissions are verified.

The only time where there can be unauthorized access from this particular group is if the medical records concern a deceased patient. While some parts of the privacy rule still apply with patient information, generally patient authorization is waived if the person can prove they're a family member and can present a death certificate or another legally verifiable record that the patient is deceased.

Another Health Care Provider

There are some cases where a patient's medical care isn't confined to a single practice, usually, if a general or primary care doctor recommends their case to a specialist. HIPAA privacy rules cover another doctor as having the right to patient information, though the privacy rule still applies that they need written authorization from the patient that consents to the passing of their medical history/care from one healthcare provider to another.

Keep in mind that you must always obtain a patient’s permission before sharing their medical information with another physician or doctor, even if it’s within your own practice. For example, a departing physician cannot hand off their notes to a new physician even if they’re under the same network without getting patient authorization, even if the incoming physician may have a legal right to those documents. Given the sensitivity of the information contained in a patient’s medical record, the HIPAA privacy rule will almost always rule to keep their information private unless extremely specific conditions are met.

The Medical Information Bureau (MIB)

For patients who have purchased or fall under some sort of insurance plan, the MIB also has the legal right to access their medical records. While the purpose of this access is more to determine their eligibility for insurance coverage, it’s still a standing covered entity that can ask for copies of your patient’s medical records. This can be anything general from their medical chart and doctor’s notes under your treatment, to a comprehensive oversight on their medical history and the type of medical care that they’ve gone through.

One thing to note here is that the MIB is explicitly not covered by the HIPAA privacy rule, as the patient signs their own agreements with the organization. As a non-profit entity, the MIB uses medical information to prevent cases of medical fraud and lower premiums for people who want to buy insurance. If the MIB ever asks for your patient’s medical records, check your state and local regulations about how patient authorization works with this request – or ask your patient about the exact permissions that they’ve allowed their insurance company with regards to getting their data.

Federal And State Government Agencies

The federal and state governments have some jurisdiction over a patient’s medical records, and they have a legal right to ask your practice for medical information if required. This is particularly crucial if the patient has a criminal record or has used a medical condition for justification in a court or civil case, as your medical records will be a crucial piece of evidence. Check your federal and state regulations if you need patient authorization to release records, as the involvement of paperwork like subpoenas can make this a confusing area to navigate.

Another common reason why you may need to hand over medical records to a federal organization is when your patient was involved in a workplace accident. In these cases, the federal government (usually through Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA) will ask for patient records about their treatment and any other pre-existing conditions. This is especially crucial if a case is ruled that your patient receives some sort of settlement or payment for their injury, as your medical records can help determine how much they’re eligible to receive.

Healthcare Payers

Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, and Social Security disability all have a right to your patient’s medical records since they pay for some or all of their medical expenses. In these cases, the patient usually already gives consent for these organizations to access their data without prior authorization, although there are cases where you may need to make sure that the patient has given them the proper authorization before releasing their records.

Keep in mind that not every entity that pays for your patient’s healthcare expenses is essentially covered by the HIPAA privacy rule, so you need to check with local regulations about the exact permissions that they need to access your patient’s records. In most cases, where the HIPAA rule doesn’t clarify the exact situation, federal and state laws will apply above all else.

As a healthcare provider, you are afforded protection against litigation under HIPAA rule, but keep in mind that these protections are only applicable if you have no HIPAA violations of your own. The key to avoiding this is working closely with your patient to ensure that you have the requisite medical permissions acquired about their health records.

Protect Electronic Medical Records From Unauthorized Access

The HIPAA rule gives a patient extensive protection with their own patient medical records, but it also gives a healthcare provider the necessary permissions to access medical information for the necessary reasons. While health information can still technically be leaked to a non-covered entity, using an electronic medical record can help secure a patient's health record even across providers, and give you an idea of the different health care providers that you can request this information from.

Calysta EMR has extensive experience in using innovative cloud-based solutions to protect patient information and their medical history, while also being a partner to any healthcare provider in keeping an accessible database of medical record information. For more information about how we improve patient access to their electronic record, contact us today.

A patient's personal health record is one of the most important pieces of information a medical institution or a medical practice can ever handle. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA) lays out extensive rules and guidelines about the storage and security of a patient's medical history and records, and any entity who has access to a patient medical record must undergo HIPAA compliance or face significant repercussions.

But how do you secure a patient record and prevent issues like a data breach and other leaks in confidentiality? While there are several improvements that you can make to how you store and keep medical records, one of the most straightforward ways to do this would be to use electronic medical records for health information exchange and data security.

Why Switch To An Electronic Record-Keeping System?

For many practices and medical institutions, keeping paper medical records is still the usual way of keeping a patient's medical history. However, with the invention of the mobile device, cloud server computing, and other modern methods of record-keeping, keeping an electronic record of patient information is not only convenient but necessary if a medical institution or medical practice wants to keep operating.

Here are some of the benefits of switching to an electronic record-keeping system:

Easier Access To Patient Information

One reason why paper records can be so ineffective is that all the primary information about a patient is limited to the primary paper record kept on their condition. This can be a potential complication if the medical information of the patient needs to be shared with another health provider or someone within your same practice or network, as hard copies may need to be made.

This also means that access to a patient's personal health record will be limited to the moment that the health record was filled out and submitted, which can limit the overall viewpoint of any physician or clinician that looks at the record. If the patient has a condition that can change rapidly from moment to moment, relying on paper records severely limits the oversight that you can provide for their condition, and may result in a significant dip in the quality of their care.

This access of information also means that the patient can't access their information if it's still being read by their doctor. By switching to an electronic medical record system, you're able to make information available via a patient portal or other similar methods so they can always have a copy of their personal health record on hand for easy access and cross-checking.

Smoother Health Information Exchange Between Health Providers

Sometimes a primary care doctor will refer patients to specialists or other practices so they can receive better care, and an electronic health record is the best way for the patient and the receiving practice to verify crucial medical data that's needed for the patient's treatment. A robust electronic medical record or EMR system can help make communication between medical professionals much easier, especially concerning a patient's medical history.

This also improves matters on your patient's end by making their medical information accessible to third-party individuals or organizations in the healthcare industry responsible for their care such as insurance agents or healthcare payers. These organizations and individuals fall under the "covered entity" rule of the HIPAA, though you're still obliged to make sure that they have patient authorization before handing over their data.

A health care provider can also integrate electronic medical records into their electronic health record system much easier since the EMR system can be distilled into its essential components for an EHR system. This is particularly crucial if the patient is being transferred in an emergency situation and the receiving doctor and medical staff need critical health data to review at a glance.

Improves Record-Keeping And Minimizes Data Loss And Leaks

One of the biggest concerns that medical institutions and practices face is the risk of having health data going missing, stolen, or corrupted. This was especially easy in the days of keeping paper records since the physical copies can be swiped, but it's even more of a concern now that most medical records are moving to a digital format.

Keeping electronic health records is an excellent way of practicing data security if the right provider is found for the platform and the system your practice will use. Not only do you have the confidence that your patient's healthcare data will be secure against internal and external threats, but you'll have the support of your provider in the case that a data breach or other complications with your electronic record system occur.

With a steady workflow in place, record-keeping becomes easier for your entire practice and the likelihood of committing mistakes decreases the more experience they have with your system. With the addition of other features like cloud computing, your platform can easily automate some of the more tedious tasks of record-keeping, freeing up your medical staff to focus on the things that matter.

These improvements scale with the size of the medical institution or medical practice: they're equally useful to large hospitals looking to modernize or small clinics who want to make their operations more efficient. While there are still some merits for keeping physical copies of a patient record, having an electronic backup is becoming more of a necessity to help keep patient medical data safe.

Why Patient Privacy Matters

A male doctor sits beside an elderly female

But why is it important for a medical institution to practice HIPAA compliance, to begin with? Since a patient’s medical data is best used by other medical providers, there can be the inclination to be less careful about handling their data, especially if the patient’s condition isn’t serious. However, this kind of attitude should not be taken for two reasons:

Reputation Of Your Practice/Institution

In today’s increasingly data-centric world, the question of privacy has been at the forefront of the discussion about personal data. Many companies pride themselves on data security if they want to keep their customer base. And while medical practices don’t lean too hard on the commercialization of their services, your practice’s reputation among your patients and other providers is affected by how well your secure patient records.

By guaranteeing patient confidentiality with their information and treatments, you’re more likely to retain patients who have already engaged with your practice. The crucial part of being a healthcare provider – that you take care of your patients – is greatly helped by if they feel secure that you’re keeping their medical information safe. Depending on the kind of condition that they have, their confidence in your practice’s ability to be discreet can help greatly increase their confidence in your care.

Protecting Your Patients

Above all else, a patient needs to feel that their needs are met and their condition is safe when engaging with a medical practice or institution. While the most straightforward way to do this is by treating their condition or physical ailment, another way of doing this is by making sure that their information is protected from individuals or groups that may use it for their own ends.

A patient’s medical health record contains a large amount of data about their personal lives – data that your patient may not feel comfortable sharing with a lot of people or organizations. As their healthcare provider, you have an inherent responsibility to keep this data safe on their behalf, so that they could enjoy the benefits of your treatment and go about their lives without worry. Aside from a regulatory obligation to keep their data safe, it’s also a moral obligation that your medical practice should fulfill.

While the exact form and method that your practice uses to uphold these two reasons for patient privacy may vary, the spirit of these remains consistent no matter the patient and their data.

Improve Patient Privacy And Health Information Exchange By Using Electronic Medical Records

The safety of patient data isn't just a matter of keeping their medical record safe: it's also a standard by which a healthcare organization or a health care provider is judged. One of the best ways to make sure that your health record system is secure in its handling of medical information is to use an electronic record-keeping system like cloud computing or an EHR system or EMR software to keep medical data in an easily accessible platform with proper security.

Calysta EMR is experienced in data security, cloud storage, and risk assessment of protected health information. We help medical professionals keep a robust electronic health record of their patients, allowing them to maintain data confidentiality without sacrificing access to crucial health data. For more information about our services and what we can provide, contact us today.

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