The convenience of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) is without question. But when considering the transition from paper-based charts to electronic medical records, the EMR backup method must also be determined to protect your EMR. Paper-based systems are endangered by fire, theft and even insects. Unfortunately, anyone who has ever experienced a computer crash knows that computers are not impervious to damage either. To protect your EMR, maintain the security of your records, and to comply with HIPAA regulations, daily EMR backup is required. Specifically, HIPAA backup regulations demand a backup and recovery plan at an offsite location in case of disaster.
EMR backup can be performed onsite using tape drives, DVDs or CDs, external hard drives, and thumb drives. Unfortunately, each of these backup methods has some serious down sides. Tape media is expensive and time consuming. A part of the office routine must be dedicated each day to backing up the system. Then the records must be removed to another location. Storage space issues may arise with the volume of data that must be recorded, eventually forcing you to abandon the tape drive to upgrade to another storage system.
External USB hard drives and high capacity thumb drives can access the data on your server via USB ports. The process is simple and the EMR data can be stored in a small physical space for ease of transport. However, the EMR data must still be transported daily to another location to meet HIPAA regulations. The data is only as secure as the car in which the data is traveling.
While the security of these options is questionable, safety is not the greatest challenge for this type of EMR backup. The biggest problem is maintaining a trained and dedicated staff to ensure that the electronic medical records are backed up and transported daily. This is a significant distraction from the business of medicine. This brings us to a third option on how to protect your EMR that eliminates this issue.
Web-based EMR /EHR software, also known as software as a service (SaaS) provides an automated way to back up medical records systems. Automated online EMR backup consists of software installed directly on the server that transmits data with every keystroke to a remote server miles away from your facility. This eliminates human involvement at your location as well as the need to physically transport backup. There are some drawbacks to backup software including an initial backup that will take several hours, yet subsequent back up time will be only minutes per day. HIPAA regulations demand high encryption requirements to ensure confidentiality of the electronic medical records.
The most effective backup protocol is a combination of two options, with automated online EMR backup software being one of the choices to protect your EMR. Shopping for an appropriate backup software company must include a few key points to ensure HIPAA compliance:
- The provider must be willing to sign a Business Associate Agreement, or BAA, pertaining to HIPAA regulations.
- Providers should have a good understanding of HIPAA and preferably, a HIPAA officer on staff.
- Providers must be able to provide a detailed disaster recovery plan that ensure a speedy recovery after a disaster.
As technology develops, it is evident that the migration from paper-based records to electronic medical records may not be a choice much longer. Careful research into the most efficient and cost effective methods of maintaining records will help you make the wisest choices, giving you more time to practice medicine with less concerns about the paperwork.