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Electronic healthcare records (EHR) are digital records of patients’ current and previous conditions, medications, physician’s visits, and test results. These records may be shared between physicians and medical facilities treating the same patient. In some systems, patients are able to access their records themselves. These communication tools have the ability to enhance the patients’ care. On the other hand, EHRs pose several privacy and security risks. They also risk violating Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) laws.
The Effect of Electronic Records on Healthcare
EHRs often add value for the patient, making their visits to doctors and hospitals streamlined and personalized (Sinsky et al., 2014). EHRs minimize the waste of paper and space because there is not a need for a large amount of paper records and offices do not have to physically store records. EHRs are especially helpful for patients experiencing a serious health event, such as cancer or a severe injury, because it allows for swift communication and coordination care between all of the health professionals treating the patient.
The Privacy and Security Implications of Adopting Electronic Health Records
In the past, it was easier to keep patients’ records private because they were kept in a single file that was stored in the doctor’s office. With EHRs, the patient information is stored electronically and can, potentially, be accessed by anyone with a computer. According to Thede (2010) there is no way to ensure that digital health records are entirely secure. This is because EHRs can be hacked, just like credit cards and social networks.
HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules
The HIPPA laws, which are from the he Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 are a set of laws that govern what doctors and hospitals can do with patients’ information. Under the law, doctors cannot disclose medical records with personally identifiable information to anyone but the patient without the patient’s permission. Patients can authorize the transfer of information to other healthcare providers and they can also allow the providers to share information with the patients’ family members (Glomb, 2002).
Do HIPPA Rules Apply to Electronic Health Records?
Since patients are usually automatically put into an EHR, there may some question about EHRs compliance with HIPPA laws. HIPPA laws definitely apply to EHRs. Not only do providers have to ask the patients permission before sharing digital records. Additionally, providers have to take extra steps to make sure that their patients’ EHRs are protected against hackers and data leaks. They have to report to government officials and prove that their patients’ digital records are safe (Thede, 2010).
Overall, EHRs have made great advancements in the world of medicine and most people believe that patient care is better of since information has become easy to share. While patients’ privacy is threatened by EHRs, the positive outcomes of digital records outweigh any threats of privacy leaks. As digital security technology advances, the threat of privacy leaks will diminish and HER will become an even more efficient mode of communication.
Glomb, M. B. (2002). Legal: Understanding HIPPA compliance. Association Management, 54(13), 23
Sinsky, C. A., Beasley, J. W., Simmons, G. E., & Baron, R. J. (2014). Electronic health records: design, implementation, and policy for higher-value primary care. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 160(10), 727-728.
Thede, L. (2010). Informatics: Electronic Health Records: A Boon or Privacy Nightmare?. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 15(2), 8
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