Protecting Electronic Medical Records and Medical Practice Liabilities
EMR discussions usually focus on what are the best EMR systems and specific functionalities. Most medical practices shopping for one of the best medical software programs overlook two very important considerations – EMR security and HIPAA compliance. Read further to learn why they should be part of your decision-making process.
ITEM 1 – EMR / EHR Security and Privacy
EMR security and privacy confidentiality concerns are something most electronic medical records vendors shy away from discussing. For the owner or manager of the medical practice, EMR security and privacy protection need to be explored. Even a seemingly small disclosure could be grounds for a lawsuit or generate government fines for non-compliance. Let’s take a realistic look at how your choice of record keeping can impact your practice.
Paper Files are Safer Than EHR . . . Right?
Paper-based medical records can pose greater risks than EHR. How is this so? Paper records can be viewed by anyone in your office. This includes people at your front desk looking at an open file, your cleaning staff, visiting salespeople, and even burglars. Add to this the real risk that a tornado or other natural disaster could toss your records out into the streets.
Prior to the mid-1990’s most small medical practices had no choice except paper-based medical records. Private practice clinicians just accepted, never had or never considered the risks. The current legal and financial risks for records breaches are greater than ever. Now though, even small medical practices have affordable options for EMR management.
How EMR Protects Your Practice and Your Patients
How Safe is PC-based EMR Security?
Many practice managers think having PC-based software provides the best security. This is not necessarily true. It does make it relatively impossible for your system to be hacked, but what if your computers are stolen? A practice would be foolish to not have an active computer backup system. This means relying on someone to do time-consuming manual backups to an external hard drive. This is almost always inconsistent, and it presents the question of how do you safely store the backup? The other option is a cloud-based backup system. The choices here go from lousy to good but can be expensive. There is yet another way to go in this situation – cloud-based medical records software.
How Safe is Cloud-based EMR Security?
If you choose a quality EHR vendor a cloud-based system can be a near perfect solution. A cloud-based system offers 24/7/365 access for multiple users from desktop computers, laptops, and mobile devices. CureMD software is hosted in a secure managed IT system using Best in KLAS EMR security features. If you have any concerns you can call for immediate help, and not wait for your IT guy to “come sometime tomorrow”.
What About Legal and Ethical Issues?
With cloud-based systems (i.e., CureMD, etc.) your medical practice is supported by EMR security specialists. These specialists protect your practice from security legal issues with medical records. There is also a need to clearly avoid security-related ethical issues with electronic health records. It is recognized that third parties may interact with patient records. It is legally recognized that non-clinicians may be exposed to data in the course of doing their job. This does not present an ethics issue. The appropriate assignment of different levels of access to systems administrators resolves any questions on how privacy confidentiality is balanced with electronic health record security.
Electronic Health Records Security and Privacy Concerns
Are there security threats to electronic health records security? Yes, but there are threats to every type of record keeping system, be it paper-based or EMR. What controls and minimizes EMR security risks with a cloud-based system are the types and layers of protection.
Explore EHR Security Measures
Active Risk Identification. Proactive measures make the difference in EMR security. Preventing data breaches is the key to personal data privacy and HIPAA compliance. CureMD leverages 24/7 automated vulnerability assessments and analysis. This includes network scanning, workstation scanning and port scanning. A highly skilled IT staff manages security and responds immediately to any perceived issues. Among the many EMR security measures CureMD employs are:
- Server Maintenance
- Critical Updates, Patches and Hotfixes
- Information Classification
- Access Control Measures
- Preventive, Detective, Deterrent and Corrective Measures
- Media Disposal Policies and Procedures
- Object Reuse Policies and Procedures
- Unique User Identification Procedure
- Workstation Security
- Devices and Peripherals Security
- Local and Group Policy Deployment
- Data Backups, Recovery and Encryption
- Mainframe Security
ITEM 2 – HIPAA Compliance and EHR Implementation
Fear of change and implementation hassles plague many medical practices. For these reasons, some continue to rely on outdated paper-based records. Some medical practices rely on low-budget records management software. Both of these groups are learning that staying current on HIPAA change implementation is a real problem. The need for a secure, cost-effective and HIPAA compliant solution makes cloud-based systems very attractive. With a customer-focused vendor, there is no need to fear EHR implementation.
A primary benefit of converting from paper-based records is resolving numerous potential HIPAA problems – present and future. Electronic medical records and HIPAA compliance go hand-in-hand because the software understands what is required. Moving forward, clinicians can expect ongoing modifications and additions to HIPAA EHR compliance requirements. When the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) revises a HIPAA privacy rule or regulation your EMR software will be updated to ensure compliance and avoid HIPAA violations.
Cloud-Based EHR and HIPAA Compliance
There are no HIPAA problems using a legitimate cloud service provider (CSP), however; there are regulations that must be respected. When a medical practice hires a CSP to manage or transmit electronic protected health information (ePHI), the CSP is viewed as a business associate of the practice. This effectively authorizes the CSP to interact with data. The HHS has specific guidelines on HIPAA and cloud computing.