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Are Digital Records More Secure Than Paper Records?

The healthcare industry has undergone many changes and one of the biggest shifts that many hospitals and healthcare professionals have seen is the implementation of electronic health records or electronic medical records. Gone are the days when critical patient charts and medical information were stored in paper files but now they are inputted in a digital version for convenient access and enhanced security and patient safety. 

But what makes digital records more secure than a paper-based record? Most electronic systems are equipped with high level encryption tools and additional security measures like password protection and restriction limits to prevent data tampering and inappropriate access. It also allows data backups to protect against worst case scenarios of information loss. 

What Are The Security Benefits Of Electronic Records?

Both electronic health record and electronic medical record are similar in a sense that they are  a digital version of a patient’s paper charts, medical files, and other important health records. They provide crucial information needed to make an accurate clinical decision and assure quality of care. 

Their only difference is that EHRs provide a more comprehensive outlook of an individual's health condition, medical care, and treatment plans. It also allows better care coordination since the information can be shared with other health care providers, specialists, and labs while EMRs tend to stay within the practice where they are created. 

However, medical professionals and healthcare organization can be assured that investing   in EHR/EMR software systems is a smart move because of its plenty of security advantages over paper records. Here are some of the security benefits of digital records: 

1. Password-protection and authorized access 

With paper medical files and manual personal health records, it’s easy for anyone to gain access to a medical document without being tracked. This greatly increases the risk of compromising or losing patient data. There’s also a possibility of human error where an employee may fail to return the patient file to storage which can lead to misplacing the document. 

Electronic records can allow you to limit the number of people who can view certain medical files and information. You can also activate password protection to avoid unauthorized access and allow only approved providers to view the medical data. With a secure password system in place, you can strengthen your medical record security to lessen the risk of medical identity theft.   

2. Built-in data encryption tools   

Cybersecurity and data breaches are common concerns of any health organization when it comes to online EMR systems. But to minimize cyberthreats and security issues, many EMR providers have put strong privacy and encryption methods in place to protect against security breaches. Data encryption basically converts inputted data into hard-to-read text so that outside attackers will have no access to health information. 

There are also many EMR systems that are built on HIPAA-compliant servers and networks to ensure patient privacy, confidentiality and information security.

3. Internal audit trails 

Healthcare providers who are still running on paper medical recording systems commonly face the challenge of data tampering or unauthorized release of files. When paper patient records are accidentally altered or copied, it’s hard to keep track of who did it due to lack of monitoring and control.

With EMRs and online patient portals, you can review the activity history in your patient database to see who accessed the system, when they opened the files, and what changes they applied to the records. If any unintended changes were made, you can restore the previous version to redo the mistake. Audit trails can also help you identify any malicious software or activity that can lead to potential breaches or security risk for patients. 

4. Data backups and storage  

Unlike paper patient records which could take time to make copies and backups, EMRs allow for automatic and daily backups to ensure security of health information in case of emergencies. 

EMR systems can either run on your practice’s local network or cloud servers which means that data is uploaded in secure external cloud programs. One appealing advantage of cloud servers is they provide convenient remote access. 

Common Problems With Keeping Paper Records

Behind a pile of paperwork, a man holds a help sign

Back in the day, primary care clinics and healthcare institutions and agencies thrived on the traditional method of manual paper records. But today, the advent of digital technologies has exposed the many ways that paper-based systems are vulnerable. Here are the usual risk factors with paper records that an EMR system can solve: 

  • Storage issues: Clinical documentation with paper records can consume a lot of physical space in the clinic and office, with some even renting warehouses where they house their information. With EMRs, a medical practice can easily upload and share hundreds of thousands of health information in a secure cloud or network. They can even conveniently upgrade their storage limit by purchasing additional space if needed.
  • Weak security and privacy: A paper-based patient record is fragile and they are unguarded against natural disasters like fires and flooding or accidental theft. EMRs are safer and they have high-rated protection measures against threats of cybersecurity and attacks. 
  • Prone to errors: Another problem with written paper documentation and doctor’s notes is illegible penmanship. This can lead to medical errors which can compromise the quality of patient care. With EMRs, all prescription notes and reminders are typewritten and there are also readily-available templates to lessen confusion. 
  • More expensive: Maintaining a paper filing system naturally entails more administrative personnel and administrative staff. This incurs more labor costs, operational costs, and other expenses needed for paper systems unlike EMRs which are more cost-efficient and a wise investment for your practice in the long run. 

Ways You Can Keep Patient Records Secure With An EMR 

As a primary care provider or aesthetic clinic, implementing electronic medical record systems is one of the best things you can do to ensure that your patients are well-protected. Here are additional tips to ensure that you get the maximum security from your EMR software program: 

  • Train and educate your staff: It’s important that all members of your healthcare team must be briefed on how to properly use the EMR program. They should also be informed about the different viruses, malware attacks, and cybersecurity threats so they’ll take extra cautions when opening electronic files and digital documents. 
  • Store passwords in a safe place: For password-protected systems, it’s crucial that every user creates strong passwords that are hard to guess. Weak passwords can expose your private practice to hacking incidents. They should also keep password information in secure places or online applications and avoid sharing it with unauthorized individuals. 
  • Ensure multi-layer defense system: In addition to the encryption and security tools that EMRs already have, you can install physical security measures like CCTV cameras and alarm systems in the rooms where your computers are located. Setting up firewalls and virus blockers can also add a layer of protection to your equipment. 
  • Keep security softwares and firewalls updated:  Make sure that your security program and antivirus software are updated to the latest version to keep every user and patient protected against the new threats. Developers are always releasing security patches to strengthen your EMR system. 
  • Perform a security risk assessment: A regular risk assessment is a crucial part of your practice’s security risk management and it helps to identify threats, weaknesses, and potential breaches. This way, you can determine the steps you need to take to fix the vulnerabilities and ensure that your privacy and security policies are still complying with HIPAA's security standards. 

Secure Your Patient Records With Safe and Reliable Calysta EMR 

Adopting a digital format or electronic document of patient health files and information is the norm these days. Calysta is the all-in-one EMR solution that many healthcare professionals and aesthetic providers need to ensure quality of care and security of patients.  

With our latest technology and HIPAA-compliant security features, Calysta EMR is one of the safest and most secure EMR options in the market. We are constantly innovating our tools and platform to give patients and doctors the best healthcare and cosmetic experience. Contact us today and sign up for a free trial.

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