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.
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:
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.
Learn more: Who Has Access To A Patient's Medical Records
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.
Learn more: How Secure Are EMR?
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.
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:
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.
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.
Read more: How Manual Medical Records Should Be Stored And Secured
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.