Is Your Personal Health Information Secure?

The U.S. Government set some strict rules for doctors and medical facilities on how patient records are kept. All medical providers and facilities must start an electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) for all patients by 2015 or suffer penalties. With security breaches abundant, how do you know your personal health information is safe?

Changes at Medical Offices & Facilities

After a recent visit to your family care physician, specialist or hospital, you may have noticed that everyone’s running around with laptops and even receptionists are informing you—there’s a new system. This new system is designed to help keep personal health information (PHI) safe in an electronic format.

Called EHR or EMR systems, if not installed by 2015, the medical field will suffer by losing one percent of their Medicare reimbursements, and will continue to lose a percentage each year that it’s not implemented. With our medical histories moving to an electronic format, can we be sure it’s safe and complies with HIPAA laws?

Should You Be Worried?

The Happy EMR Doctor offers insights on real and possible medical record breaches. Some of them include:

  • Records being faxed to the wrong person/pharmacy due to input errors.
  • The wrong prescription medications, doses and strengths sent to pharmacies.
  • Cyber-attacks or hacking of systems.
  • Only a mere 10 percent of hospitals “lock down their data” and New York, Illinois, California, Texas, Georgia, Massachusetts and Missouri have suffered “dozens” of breaches.
  • To date, 281 cases of electronic health data breaches have been reported.
  • Filling out-patient online forms is unsafe if completed on a public or non-protected computer.

All of these insights should make us worry. Is there something we can do to protect ourselves?

Securing the Medical Field

Along with the new EHR and EMR requirements, the Government also demands the medical world to set up secure systems that keep data encrypted and are HIPAA compliant. Many doctor offices, clinics and hospitals are using HIPAA hosting service companies to keep records safe via a secure IT infrastructure.

Patients should ask all of their medical care providers if they use such systems to ensure their personal data is safe.

It’s not just health records that are of concern here, but also names, addresses, birth dates and social security numbers. If these aren’t kept safe and accessed, they become a hacker’s dream—it’s all they need to steal your identity.

People should also ask their providers if they can give them a full copy of their medical records in a paper or electronic format. With EHR and EMR on the rise, it’s even more essential for people to constantly keep an eye on their healthcare records and update inaccurate information. Medical offices that use secure HIPAA, EHR or EMR systems should be able to quickly give you a copy of your records.

On paper, these new HIPAA electronic record-keeping requirements do seem like a step forward. They will enable doctors and hospitals to communicate better, especially if a patient is out-of-network. To make sure your PHI is safe, ask your providers if they are using a safe and encrypted system.


Image via Flickr by clevercupcakes