With growing adoption of EMR and EHR systems, the concern with electronic patient records privacy and security is growing. In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which created national standards for medical records security. HIPAA laws and regulations set limits on the use and access to medical records and establish a series of EMR privacy safeguards. The American Medical Association (AMA) has also listed some guidelines to ensure EMR safety.

Use a secure network

There are several measures doctors and hospitals should take to secure EMR and be HIPAA compliant. One of the most effective is data encryption. Encryption technology protects EMRs while they are being transferred and ensures that only the intended recipients are able to view them. Also, all hospitals and health providers are required to have firewalls on their computer networks. Firewalls are a strong first line of defense for medical records security by blocking unwanted access to the computer networks used by EMR systems.

Patient access and edits

Allowing patients to access and add to their own medical records is important to ensuring accurate and up to date information. However, it can also cause EMR privacy issues. Most patient health record (PHR) systems of EMR have tools to ensure authentication before allowing access to a medical record, but practices must ensure there is high authentication standards to meet this requirement.

Practices must ensure patients can only add information to their medical records, and what information they add must be clearly marked as patient notes, instead of physician notes. Patients should also not be allowed to delete anything from their medical records. This will ensure that no important health care information or history will be deleted or hidden from doctors.

Benefits of EMR Privacy

While the potential cost reduction, improved accuracy and ease of sharing EMR and EHR systems allow, there are certain benefits that EMR systems could also bring to patient privacy. With EMR, practices can record who has accessed each medical record and when. This audit trail for EMRs helps better protect patient privacy, since with paper medical records, it is much harder to accurately track who has viewed a patient’s file.

Also, with electronic medical records, it is easier to limit data disclosure to essential elements. Reasons for disclosure of medical records are numerous, ranging from treatment needs and insurance checks to employment requirements. However, patients do not need to reveal every aspect of their medical information every time. Doctors with EMR or EHR systems can remove extraneous health information when disclosing a patient’s record.

EMR security and privacy is a growing concern with increasing EHR adoption. However, by ensuring strict EMR privacy through secure networks and patient authentication, EMR systems can be a more secure way of protecting medical records compared to paper medical records.