Privacy and Security Implications of Electronic Health Records

Introduction

Over the past decade, the world has witnessed a significant increase in technological applications and advancements. As such, technology has in most instances proven to be a valuable ally towards the provision of efficient and cost-effective means of operation. Key among these advances is the integration of Electronic Health Record Systems in medical settings. However, despite their potential benefits, some potential dangers may arise from the use of these systems.

Among the main concerns are privacy and security implications that may be associated with EHRS. To this end, this paper shall highlight the advantages and disadvantages of using EHRS.

EHR: A brief overview

An EHR can simply be defined as a system through which patients’ health information is collected, stored, and can easily be retrieved or shared electronically (Wager, Lee & Glaser, 2009). Not only is this system necessary, but it is pivotal to the efficient delivery of services and cost reduction initiatives in a health care setting. The initiative gained prominence in 2004 after the former president proclaimed his support for these systems.

Privacy and security: Advantages of EHRs

Like most information systems, EHRs are fitted with state-of-the-art security features. Some include authentication technologies (scanners and ID recognition software), data encryption, password protection, and secured networks. These features ensure that only a few people have access to the information. In addition, these systems provide the capability of tracking accessed records.

This provides the administrator with detailed information as to when the records were accessed and why (Wager, Lee & Glaser, 2009). Such features ensure that privacy is maintained and the records are only used for medical purposes.

On the same note, there are state and federal laws that protect the privacy and security of EHRs. For example, the HIPAA act of 1996 has been essential in elaborating the security standards required to safeguard health records, including EHRs (Wager, Lee & Glaser, 2009). The HIPAA rules govern the use and disclosure of health records.

As such, they ensure that patients’ records are not abused, violated, or misused. Regarding security, EHRs can be backed up in a remote location thereby ensuring that they are secure and readily available in case of an incident (fire, theft, or floods). In addition, EHRs provide security in the sense that patients get electronic prescriptions that are eligible. This eliminates the chances of misinterpreting the doctor’s handwriting or prescription. Despite these advantages, there exist several disadvantages.

Privacy and security: Disadvantages of EHRs

Wager, Lee, and Glaser (2009) contend that an EHRS like any other computer system is subjected to external intrusion. Though a valuable system, it can be hacked and vital information stolen. In addition, there is always the possibility of infections in form of bugs and computer viruses. Such vulnerabilities may compromise the security and privacy of the stored records.

In addition, other people can easily gain access to the system and alter the records. In a hospital setting, authorized personnel are often busy delivering medical care to patients. As such, they may delegate an individual to access various records (Wager, Lee & Glaser, 2009). Such acts are a threat to the security and privacy of patients’ records. Also, there is always the possibility of computer software and hardware sabotage. If successful, the implemented system may crash leading to the loss of saved records.

Conclusion

Arguably, the Electronic Health Record Systems presents the medical sector with a means to revolutionize its modes of operations. The transition is not an easy one and there are potential risks involved. However, changes can be made to counter the risks and ensure that the systems are safe and meet the desired objectives. It would therefore be a worthwhile investment to implement these systems because their benefits far outweigh the dangers.

Reference

Wager K. A., Lee F. W., & Glaser J. P. (2009). Health Care Information Systems A Practical Approach For Health Care Management. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.