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How Secure Are EMR?

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:

  • Patient and Staff Education: It is crucial that everyone who has access to EMRs or even just your healthcare data system understands just how important safety is when it comes to your network and the patients’ records. Educating the patients and staff fully and making them aware of the possibility of hackers, viruses, and health care data breaches is the best way to keep everyone on their toes when dealing with these files.
  • Strong Passwords: Too many people still use weak passwords that can be easily guessed or cracked. Make sure that patients and staff regularly update their passwords, and that the passwords aren’t simple or easy. Attackers can use software that can test the most common and easiest passwords in just moments, making easy passwords susceptible to breaches.
  • Offline Backups: If you do experience a data breach, it’s possible that hackers will try to do what is known as a ransomware attack on your data. This is when your data and system are held hostage by the attackers, with them only granting you access again once you have paid a certain ransom. Avoid these worst-case scenarios by keeping backup files of your EMRs and regularly updating them, so that if you do experience network compromise, you aren’t completely at the mercy of your attackers.
  • Keep Firewalls Updated: Always update your firewalls and other security systems. Hackers are always evolving in their methods and attacks, and security system providers are always trying to work against the latest attacks out there. Keeping your system updated is the best way to help protect your network from the latest versions of these attacks.

Read more: How Manual Medical Records Should Be Stored And Secured

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.

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