How Secure is Your Patients’ PHI? The EHR Privacy Dilemma Continues

by | Published on Nov 7, 2013 | EHR/EMR

Is the transition from paper patient charts to electronic records happening too fast? There is a growing fear among patients, physicians and privacy advocates that security measures cannot effectively keep pace with the speed of transition. Now insurers, healthcare providers, researchers, regulators all can manipulate technology to gain access to patient healthcare data.

The biggest concern that privacy advocates raise is that medical providers do not have enough guidance regarding the successful implementation of electronic records. With the new government rules that give patients more control of their health records, it is surely going to create administrative and technical problems for healthcare providers.

The gravity of the situation is highlighted in a recent report on Patient healthcare data is well on its way to becoming easily available just as any other kind of customer data. It can be bought and sold with ease, and it would be difficult to trace the path along which it goes. Centralized databases that store huge amount of patient data are sitting ducks for hackers and high-tech thieves. Interestingly, Daimon Geopfert, a security and privacy expert with the McGladrey consulting group compares the current situation to that of a “group of banks with tunnels to the same vault.” According to him, in such a condition the master vault is as insecure as the least secure of those banks. A single employee can cause major damage by unintentionally exposing a computer to a malware. It is possible that this malware may not be noticed for a long time, in the course of which it may spend spam emails and infect other computers on the system. Patient records are a tempting target to hackers who manage to break into a physician’s office or a hospital. If identity theft occurs, it is a major concern. Misuse of social security number, birth date and medical history can create irresolvable problems.

However, providers in favor of electronic records eulogize the positive aspects of digitizing patient information. There are physicians who feel that EHRs allow for privacy measures that are not possible with paper charts. Another point in favor of digital records is that these allow secure sharing among multiple physicians treating the same patient, which will help improve patient care.

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