medical record safety

Peace of Mind: A Short Guide To Who Handles Your Private Medical Information

protecting protected health medical information in healthcare

Many patients are unaware of how many people have access to their sensitive medical information.

The following guest post on who handles Protected Health Information (PHI) was submitted by Brooke Chaplan.

From basic information such as your height and weight to the types of medications you are taking, your health history, diagnoses, billing information and more, your healthcare providers have access to an incredible amount of very personal information about you and others in your family. This is information that you do not want to fall into the wrong hands. This begs the question of who actually has access to all of the information in your medical file.

Well-Trained and Screened Candidates

In most healthcare offices, hospitals and other settings, the administrative or medical team that has access to your records is usually well-trained and thoroughly screened. These individuals typically must pass a thorough background check before being permitted to work in the office, and the office often has safeguards and high-tech protocols to prevent employees from mishandling or abusing the information that they gain access to. Some of the professionals with the most access are healthcare administrators that hold a degree in their field. Click here to see more about healthcare administration programs.

Your Health Insurance Company

If you are one of the many millions of Americans who have access to health insurance, your health insurance company may keep track of your medications, treatments, diagnoses and more. Health insurance professionals are often required to uphold strict standards of confidentiality in the same way your healthcare providers are. In addition, as is the case with hospitals and medical offices, health insurance companies usually go to great lengths to prevent employees from misusing or abusing the data that they come across over the course of their regular work day.

Potential Hackers

In 2015, as many as a third of all Americans were impacted by a security breach that involved their healthcare data or records. Information such as their address and Social Security information may have been passed on to hackers. Some hackers sell the data they obtain through their attacks, and others use it personally with malicious intent. For example, with your name, address, Social Security number and birth date, they can commit identity theft. Many medical offices and hospitals are aware of this and other potential risks to their patients, and they regularly take steps to continuously update and improve technology in an effort to reduce this risk for their patients.

Your private data should remain private at all times, but the unfortunate reality is that the system in place in the healthcare industry right now is not perfect. Patients should make inquiries to their healthcare providers to learn more about the steps a particular office or hospital is taking to keep their data from falling into the wrong hands.

Author bio:

Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking, and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

 

EHRs

8 Misconceptions About EHRs That Must Be Dispelled

EHRs

Despite the rising power of electronic health record systems (EHRs), they are still widely misunderstood and often misused.

The following guest post on dispelling the myths of EHRs was submitted by Andrea Bell.

Health records, whether electronic or paper-based, are an essential record-keeping tool that supports clinical decision-making at every level of diagnosis and treatment. Concerns about patient privacy and confidentiality are nothing new. The privacy matters of patients’ are as old as the practice of medicine itself.

When it comes to electronic health records of patients, privacy is always top of the list. Tablets, smartphones, and web-enabled devices have totally transformed our daily lives and the way we communicate. The healthcare industry is carefully trying to manage technological innovations and patient’s health records through computerized systems. Individuals and healthcare professionals are working in close collaboration with each other to make health data safer and accessible in order to enhance systems of treatment for patients.

Electronic health record data banks have stronger prospects for transforming the health care industry. These new systems can provide an extensive amount of information related to the patients’ medical history in a few clicks, thereby completely doing away with obsolete paper systems that delay treatment and diagnoses.

This new tool now helps staffers to process patient record-keeping more promptly than ever before. This swift service was not possible with paper-based systems where administrative officials had to search through piles of files for patient records.

Despite the several intelligent and easy uses of EHRs, there are a couple of misconceptions about the technology and debates about its functionality. Here we have tried to dispel the 8 common myths and misconceptions about EHRs.

1. Electronic health records software is less efficient as compared to paper-based systems
Many practices take great pride in adopting new technologies, but one needs to realize that it’s important to know that paper-based systems are simply less efficient than electronic systems. Its very easy to have access to patient health record information, and you can streamline workflow in general by automating patient records.

2. EHR systems are expensive
Since electronic health records have continued to progress and mature, they have also been developed for a wide variety of uses; from leading government hospitals to part-time private clinics, and everyone else in the field of medicine. With the growing change in needs, there are variations in the cost of an EHR, the quality of software and functionality. Based on the size of your practice and patient turn-over, you are most likely to find an option that perfectly suits your needs as well as your budget.

3. Once you install an EHR system, it can be used without training
Installing a new EHR system at your hospital or private practice is no guarantee that your employees or team members will start doing their jobs more efficiently or process patients more swiftly. Anyone who says they can use the system without elementary training, should be observed carefully. While some EHR systems are relatively easy to learn than others, it’s important to ensure that some basic training is provided to staffers so that they become proficient at using this system. And once you and the team become acquainted with EHR, the efficiencies will increase while redundancies will decrease.

4. EHR software makes communications between patients and employees unfriendly and mechanical
This myth that the staff, providers or other healthcare professionals entering data or transcribing text into an EHR system seems mechanical and ‘cold’ to patients and comes at the risk of deteriorating relations between the two couldn’t be further from the truth.

It can in fact be the other way around. Patients should be made to understand and appreciate at the same time that using an EHR helps secure their medical information minus the errors. In fact, it’s worth a short discussion to let the patient know how much the EHR will help them in terms of safe and secure information, there will be little or no chance of missing charts, flipping test results or anything similar.

Patients should be educated on how the EHR helps avert possible disasters in the event of fire or theft. It has been observed that medical practices nowadays post on their websites and have printed information available that the practice uses an EHR, and why its use is beneficial for patients.

5. EHR systems are a hindrance to accomplishing work
You can say that at one point a decade ago, EHRs may not have been very user-friendly, or designed for specific industries. But EHR technology has traveled a long way and is typically very easy to understand and use, and greatly helps in reducing administrative workload.

Electronic health record systems can save a lot of time from your workday by putting every minute detail from clinical files at your fingertips, while also increasing efficiency, reducing errors, and letting you work anytime and from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection.

6. EHR systems are difficult to use
With the boom of electronic medical records, there were EHR systems that were quite difficult and technical to navigate for a layman. However, as the field has progressed, significant improvements have been made in this area. If we go back a decade, the vast majority of electronic health record systems were designed specifically for medical fields or for hospital settings and people who used these systems were aggressively trained.

Since then things have changed significantly. EHR systems are now being designed for different industries such as eye care, chiropractic care, and mental health. Technology is evolving at a remarkable pace and it continues to improve the user-friendliness of EHR systems, and there is a focus on intuitive and easy-to-use navigation in the latest EHR systems.

7. Physicians will be reluctant to learn and adopt a new system
The notion that practitioners or healthcare providers can only be categorized in one of two extremes when it comes to electronic health records, isn’t right. There were a few early adopters of the system who saw its potential, implemented the systems and dealt with the initial trials and errors, and on the other hand, there are also those few who would prefer realy retirement over using a new electronic system.

However, the biggest chunk of healthcare providers falls in the middle category because, at the end of the day, they have practices to run and patients to see. EHRs can’t be a barrier because there’s simply too much work to be done. So the expression that an old dog learning new tricks does not really apply to providers and physicians because their business constantly requires from them to learn new techniques, therapies, and approaches and EHR is one of them.

8. EHR systems cannot be customized for every practice
A lot of healthcare organizations and practitioners who have already implemented an EHR system say it doesn’t really matter what specialty any physician is in. Everyone has different ways of approaching the practice of medicine, but the very basics of clinical medicine are the same around the world. EHRs do require some level of customization for each health care organization and physician, and it is very much possible to do so.

Conclusion

With accurate information and logical reasoning, it’s easy to get over the misconceptions that usually circulate when implementing electronic health records software at government based healthcare organizations or private practices. Similarly, is it also a misleading fact that IT departments in healthcare organizations deploy a software just for the heck of it or just because it is the talk of the town in terms of latest technology. Therefore, with these 8 major misconceptions dispelled, I am sure there will be less ambiguity about electronic health record systems.

gaining patient trustAndrea Bell is a Freelance writer and a content contributor at www.computermateinc.com, which provides Medisoft V21 software. She writes mostly on technology related stuff. Live simply, give generously and a sports lover. Find her on twitter @IM_AndreaBell

patient data integrity and patient safety in healthcare

The Importance of Maintaining Patient Data Integrity

patient data integrity and patient safety in healthcare

Patient data integrity is important to maintain in healthcare. Learn more about how to protect it in the evolving world of digital healthcare. (photo courtesy of Chris Evans on Flickr: http://bit.ly/2iUls86

The following guest post on patient data integrity in healthcare was submitted by Gabriel Tedde Cabot.

While all physicians, care providers and practices understand the importance of keeping accurate files and records for maintaining patient data integrity, the unique challenges and concerns of a digital file system may pose a greater risk than many practitioners might realize. From the struggle to keep patient records coherent and to maintain unified files across multiple applications and programs to the issues that may be caused by a data breach, today’s practices would be wise to assess the effectiveness of their records and data processes. Loss of data integrity may result in any number of potentially serious consequences, ranging from HIPPA violations to compromised patient care.

Creating and Maintaining the Right Digital Infrastructure

The first step towards ensuring digital information can be created, stored and accessed with greater accuracy is also one of the most important. Creating and maintaining the right digital infrastructure can streamline all processes that may involve patient records and ensure that inconsistencies within a file system are less likely to occur. Applications that can be linked more easily and databases that provide cross-platform support are often crucial assets for reducing errors, oversights and optimizing the efficiency of staff and associates.

The Importance of Staff and Employee Training

Having the right digital working environment is only one step in the process for ensuring more effective and accurate record-keeping, one that may be of little practical benefit when employees are not properly trained. Properly training all employees who access or use database systems, patient records and similar applications can help to minimize problems caused by user error. Assessing the current skill level, understanding and overall computer literacy of existing staff can also be quite helpful in identifying any areas that may require attention or improvement.

Failing to provide ongoing training for their staff is a mistake common to both small practices and larger facilities. Updated software, the addition of new applications and changes to the daily operational process of a clinic, practice or healthcare facility often entails the need to train and educate employees who may not yet be comfortable or even familiar with new systems or tasks. Ongoing training also provides a chance for associates to brush up on any skills or concepts that may have gone unused for too long.

Performing Periodic Assessments or Audits to Ensure Accuracy

Quality assurance can go a long way, both towards ensuring that established resources and operational processes are being utilized correctly and for identifying smaller issues before they have a chance to grow into larger and more serious problems. Assessing the accuracy of past records and ensuring that patient data integrity is being maintained effectively is not a concern that should be left to chance. Further assessments should also be performed whenever new operational policies go into effect or when changes are made to the software, systems and applications used by employees.
 
Protecting Patient Information in the Digital Age

From instituting a more effective password policy to utilizing secure virtual data rooms, there are numerous ways for organisations to ensure all patient data and information is able to be kept safe and secure. Damage caused by unauthorized access to data, files and electronic information may be considerable and practitioners who fail to make online security a priority may be placing themselves and their patients at greater risk of breach or other security issue. Malware or unauthorized users who are able to gain access to electronic records may result in the loss of vital data or files and records that no longer be considered secure.

While even basic measures to enhance digital security can make a considerable difference, more effective may be achieved by organisations who elect to make use of the right resources. Contracting with third-party IT department or security specialist may provide a more cost effective solution for smaller practices that lack the financial resources needed to expand their staff. Investing in secure virtual data rooms used to store and distribute information in a safer manner can also ensure that medical organisations are not placing patient data or information at greater risk. Finding and selecting the services, resources and solutions that make it possible to reduce or even eliminate many of the most common and costly digital security risks is always a worthwhile undertaking.

Staying Up to Date With Changing Technology and Emerging Trends

With new applications, digital services and innovations continuing to shape and change the industry, practitioners and medical organizations can no longer afford to fall behind the times. Failing to learn more about new potential security risks or electing to overlook the latest security resources and solutions could prove to be nothing short of a disaster. When it comes to maintaining patient data integrity, staying up to date with the latest technology or learning more about the most recent threats and security concerns is of paramount importance.

Gabriel Cabot is a digital marketing strategist from London who enjoys reading, writing and learning about new technologies, programming, health and the Internet.

biometric patient identification solutions prevent duplicate medical records and overlays

New Podcast: The Impact of Duplicates and Overlays on Health Information Management (HIM)

biometric patient identification solutions prevent duplicate medical records and overlays

Our latest podcast features HIM Director Erin Head discussing the impact of duplicate medical records and overlays on health information management (HIM).

Erin brings a wealth of experience to health information management (HIM) work flow and managing patient data integrity so naturally we were excited to tap into her knowledge base to better understand the HIM “front line” – a deeper discussion about the day to day activities in the trenches and a firsthand account of the negative impact of duplicate medical record and overlay identification and reconciliation. Our conversation with Erin covered the following topics:

— How duplicate medical record reconciliation impacts HIM workflow and other job responsibilities sacrificed due to duplicate/overlay reconciliation

— The average FTEs health information management spends reconciling duplicates and overlays and the financial impact on the hospital if FTE’s that are currently cleaning up duplicates and overlays could be reallocated to more revenue generating activities such as coding

— How the shift to quality vs. quantity based care impacts the responsibilities and sense of urgency for HIM

— Whether the ONC cost estimate of $60 per duplicate record is low or high compared to her own experience

— The impact on HIPAA violations that duplicates/overlays cause and the cost if a hospital releases information to wrong patient

— How the introduction of the patient portal complicates management of duplicates

— How the implementation of a biometric patient identification system helps to lower the burden of reconciling duplicates and overlays and allows health information management to focus on their core competencies

For a full version of the podcast, please visit the landing page for more information. 

Have an idea for a podcast or know a healthcare professional that would be a good candidate to interview? Email us at: info@rightpatient.com with your ideas!