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How Do EMRs Assure Patient Confidentiality and Information Security?

Advancements in technology have paved the way for any healthcare organization to make the transition from paper-based records to adopt electronic medical record (EMR) systems to provide better patient care. However, there is a growing concern about the security of data and medical information stored in electronic platforms.

So what security standards and measures are put in place in EMR platforms to assure patient confidentiality and information security? EMRs have a security policy that serves as a guide for both the patients and medical staff who have access to the system. Certain safeguards such as data encryption tools, setting up access controls, and creating firewalls help strengthen security of healthcare data.  

What Information Security Means in Modern Health Care

Medical records provide essential information that a doctor needs to know about a patient so they can give accurate care and treatment. Today, most of the medical information about an individual-from their medical history, current medications, lab exam results-are stored electronically.

With this move from paper records to a digital recordkeeping system, healthcare providers have also gained additional responsibility to practice safe steps about ensuring a patient’s health data protection. When you guarantee their safety, it’s easier for them to put their trust in you as their doctor and it makes them more willing and comfortable to share any sensitive information.

To have a better idea about implementing data protocols for your patient’s peace of mind, it’s important to understand the three common terms you usually hear when talking about handling information: 

  • Privacy - Patient privacy dictates the client’s sole right to control and decide how their information will be used and to what extent their data may be accessed. It maintains that a patient’s protected health information (PHI) should only be given to those who need it to continue medical care. Using PHI for clinical trials and research purposes must have approved consent from the patient.  
  • Confidentiality - On the other hand, confidentiality refers to the commitment of medical professionals to safekeep any information shared by their patients and to only use it for its intended purpose. Healthcare providers have the duty to prevent access to data beyond its medical use.    
  • Information security - In healthcare, information security refers to the responsibility of hospitals and clinical practices to enforce physical, technical, and administrative safeguards to maintain privacy of patient data. This includes the means and tools that any organizations use to uphold protection of medical and personal information from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, and sharing of data among other providers.

The Goals of Health Information Security

Electronic medical records have certainly changed the way doctors do their medical practice and administer treatments to their patients. The rise of the Internet of Medical Things (IOMT) has made it possible to connect medical devices and digital software to healthcare IT systems through online networks and cloud services.

The use of a medical device to store electronic medical information has empowered physicians to better communicate with their patients, seamlessly track records, and remotely monitor progress. But at the same time, using internet servers and smart devices have increased likelihood of patient data breach.

Having tight information security can help avoid security problems and unauthorized access to any confidential health record. In any medical or aesthetic clinical practice, they should first be able to identify the goals of their electronic health information security. There are three primary goals in regards to patient data:

  • The clinic should ensure confidentiality by setting up protocols that protect health information from being accessed by other third-party users and organizations. The content should be safely guarded by access controls such as PIN and passwords, and limiting the people who can open and view the file.
  • The clinic should also maintain integrity of the provided data. Integrity means that the information is accurate and updated. The electronic information system should restrict editing permissions to other personnel so that the data will not be modified or altered. Loss of integrity for digital information can also occur when information was not saved properly or it has been lost in the cloud.
  • The clinic should also make information available to healthcare professionals that need it. In case that a patient seeks care from another organization, their new attending physician should be able to have access to their information from their previous clinic. Data should be safely backed up in their platform so it will be easy to distribute upon request or grant access permissions to the new doctor.

What Is The Difference Between EMR and EHR Systems?

An electronic health record, or EHR, encompasses more purposes and functions than an electronic medical record. EHR is a full-service platform that provides complete information on the total condition of the patient.

By going beyond the standard data collected to offering a broader perspective of the patient’s care, the EHR system gives physicians a holistic overview of an individual’s long-term health. It contains more than their personal information and includes previous medical test results, family history of illnesses, allergies, immunization dates, and more.   

Unlike EMR that stays housed within the network of one clinic, the EHR is specifically built to be shared across different organizations and can be managed by different authorized physicians. Since it gives a wider range of medical data, EHR follows wherever the patients go and are used by more than one doctor to access past treatment plans and medical history to assist in their decision-making process.  

EMRs help clinics and small practices who want to centralize their documentation processes. It digitizes patient record so they won’t have to get lost in the folders and files along with other clients’ data. It also allows for easy monitoring of a patient’s ongoing treatment or procedure to save time for guesswork.

What Are The Top Concerns in Developing EMR Systems?

Almost all practicing doctors and medical organizations shoulddata abide by the guidelines set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA is the governing law that tells health care providers how to properly manage, protect, and disclose PHI.

Any EHR or EMR information security system should be aligned with the guidelines that are stated in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 or HIPAA Privacy Rule. This means proposing protocols and safeguards that abide with the HIPAA rules. Failure to observe HIPAA compliance may result in corresponding penalties and fines.

So aside from familiarity with the national law, there are other factors that need to be considered to avoid potential issues stemming from the implementation of electronic medical records.  

1. Privacy and Confidentiality

In connection with earlier mention of the privacy rule, it is also important to understand who the individuals and organizations which are considered a covered entity and should demonstrate compliance with HIPAA:

  • Health care providers
  • Agencies that offer insurance and health plans
  • Health clearinghouses - These are any public or private business that interprets data from providers and insurance payers to process transactions and healthcare claims.
  • Business associates (BA) - Any third-party person or organization that needs related health information to perform services for another covered entity.

There are certain classifications of information that are considered protected under the HIPAA Privacy Rule. This can include the doctor’s diagnosis of a patient’s past, current, and future medical condition; type of healthcare given to the individual; and provision of payment plan to the individual’s healthcare.

The release of any related patient information should only be done with the consent of the individual or as specified by the law. If the patient is mentally unable to make decisions, the access to information should be granted by the patient’s legal guardian or representative.  

Providers must take proper steps to ensure the confidentiality of records in their EMRs. One way to do this is to give permission to certified users only. The administrator can assign certain privileges that will determine the amount and level of information that they can attain. The authorized user should also be informed that they will be held accountable for any information they can access.

2. Security Breach

Cybersecurity is the leading concern of patients when it comes to electronic healthcare systems. The healthcare industry is a common target to privacy attacks because of the wealth of information that it stores and because most of its defense systems are weak.

The common types of breaches in healthcare are hacking incidents, theft or loss of data, improper disposal of information, and attacks to the EMR/EHR software which may include malware, virus, trojan, and ransomware.

To protect against this, the HIPAA has also released a Security Rule that lays the foundation for the data security protocols for all personal health information. According to the rule, the covered entities must have a set of internal policies and procedures that ensure integrity, confidentiality, and availability of PHI. They should also equip their EMR/EHR platforms with tools that detect and protect against both internal and external threats.

3. Use of Software

The security of data stored in an EMR/EHR can also depend on the type of software system you’ll use. There are two kinds of systems: client-based (PC-based) and cloud based.

A client-based computer program requires data to be stored in-house. This means that the clinic should be equipped with a strong server, hardware, and software programs. Some providers prefer client-based systems since the information is not uploaded in the online cloud. But if the computer is stolen or the servers become down and you have no backup, it may affect your service to patients. It can also be time-consuming to do manual backups of the information to an external drive.

Meanwhile, in a cloud based EHR/EMR all the information is kept in external servers or cloud programs, and they can be accessed using a computer or device that is connected to the Internet. Cloud-based systems are more preferred since it’s easier to run and operate. It’s also cost-effective compared to client-based systems since you only need to pay a monthly fee for the cloud platform.

And as long as you have a reliable internet connection, cloud based EMRs provide more remote accessibility because providers only need to log in with their account using any device. It’s important to remember that your system should have high-level security and protection methods that are in line with HIPAA Security Rule.

Learn more: What’s the Best Medical Spa Software?

4. Onboarding and Implementation

Your staff may need some time to adjust to the new all-digital EMR system before they’re deeply ingrained in the clinic’s day-to-day processes. The teams should be oriented with how the platform works and they should be given a crash course in security and privacy-related issues.

They should be reminded to keep their access information to themselves to avoid any illegal login attempts to the system. Employees must also be trained in the basic features of software programs and encryption tools so they can conduct system upgrades to keep the EMR platform updated with the latest protection.

And of course, having a user-friendly web interface can also help your people better navigate the EMR platform. Poorly designed interfaces may lead to confusion which results in decreased efficiency of patient care and may increase risk to compromising data. Routine maintenance checks must be performed to evaluate security of the current EMR system.

How Can You Protect and Secure Health Information with an EMR?

When employing electronic information systems, it’s important that your practice is well-equipped not only with the knowledge about how they function but also with the needed security tools to ensure the protection of client information. The HIPAA has posted guidelines on safeguard requirements and reminders that you must incorporate with your EMR:

  • Implement administrative safeguards - These are administrative actions and procedures intended to prevent, detect, and rectify privacy violations. An example of this is conducting workforce training on proper use of IT systems and conducting security risk assessment to review the organization’s preparedness against external viruses.
  • Use technical safeguards - These are the tools and technology required to protect your system. This can include use of firewalls and virus blockers and detectors, setting up access controls to the files and information, and creating backups of data to another server. Your system should also have two-factor authentication during logins for additional security.
  • Installing physical safeguards - These are physical measures that protect your equipment where the information is stored. This can include installation of alarm systems, CCTV cameras, and using locks in the rooms that contain the equipment.
  • Do audit trails - Audit trails are the record of every action that was done by any user who logged in to the EMR system. Reviewing the audit trail can help in identifying changes and flagging any suspicious activity before they escalate to serious problems. 
  • Review security policies - Regularly review your clinic policies and procedures to ensure they adhere to HIPAA rules. Your staff should also be well-informed on the security protocols.

Why You Need an EMR System  

Smiling African female doctor talking to teen patient

Once you’ve set up the EMR system, you can begin to enjoy an elevated level of patient care treatment and reap its benefits such as:

  • More efficient workflow and improved management of patient health data in one system
  • Minimize errors that come from incorrect diagnosis or incomplete medical information
  • Save physical space as the paper records are migrated to digital servers
  • Increased staff productivity
  • Reduced administrative costs and expenses since having digital records can help reduce mistakes

Patients can also benefit from the EMR system by receiving faster responses from their medical doctors. They are also assured that they are receiving the right treatment plan and diagnosis. There are also less chances for errors in their personal health records, and if there are any, it’s easy to edit them using a digital device.

Calysta EMR: Your Partner for Advanced Aesthetic Solutions

Calysta EMR is the latest all-in-one aesthetic-focused platform that provides advanced solutions for med spas and cosmetic practices. Developed by aestheticians for aestheticians, Calysta offers an easy-to-use interface with comprehensive features that both your team and clients will enjoy. It boasts of a wide variety of benefits which include:

  • Digital one-on-one consultations - We offer Zoom teleconferencing and meetings where dermatologists can engage with their patients. Booking these appointments are made easy through the online calendar. Our calendar feature can also send you reminders so you will never miss an appointment and increase patient satisfaction.
  • Readily available note templates - Calysta has pre-made templates so you can write notes, prescriptions, and document information with just one click.
  • Online consents and payment forms - We provide electronic consent forms which can be made, signed, and stored directly in the EMR. Calysta also offers a secure online payment option where payments can checkout and pay for services using their credit cards.
  • Automatic backups and data storage - Our platform is backed up daily so you will never lose important patient information in case of an emergency. We offer cloud storage where you can upload your patient’s files and photos to track their progress.
  • HIPAA-based systems - Our EMR systems are adherent to the rules of HIPAA so your data and patient information is always secure and safe.

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EMRs are changing the face of digital healthcare, and Calysta is one of the trusted EMR partners that will help you grow your aesthetic practice to become one of the leading providers of cosmetic solutions.

With our commitment to the latest technology and pursuit of innovative systems, Calysta EMR is constantly improving to provide the high-quality products and services for doctors and clients. Contact us today to learn more about how Calysta can transform your practice or schedule your free trial. 

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