EHR or Electronic Health Records, also often referred to as EMR or Electronic Medical Records is a very complex system that all medical practices need to implement. However, it is equally important that the security aspect is well taken care of. In short, EHR is here to replace the cumbersome paper medical records and charts that a physician needs to maintain for his or her patients. An EMR or EHR system involves scanning and digitizing all existing paper records along with the related medical charts and integrating them into a rather complex system.
Diagnosis is easy with EHR
As a provider when you have EHR you will be able to have direct access to the patients’ detailed health information. This detailed information will give you an overall picture of the patients’ condition making the diagnosis a lot easier and faster. EHRs are meant to keep records of patients’ medications, allergies and look out for any problems that may arise when the medication is changed. This information is conveyed to the clinician immediately. Even life-threatening allergies are recorded in EHRs and alerts are sent to the emergency staff.
As far as the security angle is concerned providers should be aware of HIPAA or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which is enforced by the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR). Health care providers need to abide by their obligations that come under the purview of the Privacy and Security Rules. While converting your records to EHR helps maintain better quality and offers ready accessibility, the obligations that providers have to keep such patient information private and secure remain unchanged.
The HIPAA Privacy Rules entitle the patients with certain rights over their health information that is privy to providers and physicians. Irrespective of whether the records are maintained in paper form or electronic form the Privacy Rule entitles a patient to:
- Demand to view your medical record or request for a copy
- Have mistakes promptly corrected, if any
- Be informed about how the information is kept and shared (with whom)
- Have the right to decide how and where a health care provider may contact the patient
- In the event of any of the rights being violated, the patient has the right to file a complaint through the OCR website at hhs.goc/ocr
All these rights are given in detail in the Notice of Privacy Practices that the patient is entitled to get from the doctor’s office or hospital. The healthcare providers may also send the patient a copy of the notice via mail.
Access to the information is protected by passwords or PIN numbers. The stored information needs to be encrypted to enhance the security so that no unauthorized person is allowed access without prior permission. Decrypting the information requires a special key that is available only with the authorized personnel. Details of who accessed the records and the changes made, if any can be got through what is known as “audit trail”. In case unauthorized personnel get to see a patient’s records the patient needs to be notified by the doctors, hospitals or healthcare providers about the breach of health information.