Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How Your Doctor Should Keep Your Medical Records Private

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was implemented to make improvements that make the health care system work more efficiently and effectively. Not only does the HIPAA Privacy Rule protect your personal health information, but it also provides patients with many rights. Healthcare providers are responsible for ensuring the safe handling and privacy of your medical records. Congress has mandated Federal privacy protections for individually identifiable health information. There are several steps that your doctor should take to secure your information.

Healthcare providers and any 3rd party they work with must adhere to protection laws regarding the disclosure of health information. Your health record is created during the normal course of business by a healthcare-related organization. Managing the information contained in your health record requires that providers and healthcare workers understand mandatory laws and standards. There are legal parameters for the collection, use, access, disclosure and exchange of medical records. Not only is the privacy of health records governed by federal laws, but also state-specific laws. Privacy and confidentiality are key components of patient-provider relationships. Your health information may be recorded as a paper record, hybrid record, or EHR, Electronic Health Record.

How Electronic Record Keeping Works

In recent years the goal has been for healthcare entities to move to electronic recordkeeping. By this means, your health record is stored electronically in a digital format. This is the means that your doctor should use to keep your medical records private. With this method, health information can be used and shared within secure networks. Care and outcomes can be tracked. Trigger notifications and reminders can be set. Reports, orders, and results can be sent directly through a secure system. Regarding the exchange of your health information, a technologically social framework permits information to move between organizations electronically.

Your doctor should implement policies and procedures that will ensure compliance with all requirements of the Privacy Rule. There should be an ongoing review of privacy policies and procedures to ensure any policy changes are consistent with current privacy and security regulations. Regulatory changes must be updated. Any revisions should be indicated in the practice’s policies and procedures. Regulations require that appropriate technical, administrative, and physical safeguards are put in place to protect Private Health Information from intentional and unintentional use or disclosure. This can include paper shredding any documents that contain Private Health Information, or limiting access to any area that contains Private Health Information. Limited access can be achieved through the use of passwords, key codes, and locks.

The Legal Policies Behind Electronic Record Keeping

The HITECH Act is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It was passed to further promote the development of a national Healthcare System through the use of electronic health record systems by healthcare providers. Since the changes brought about by HITECH within the HIPAA Privacy Rule, the repercussions of non-compliance have moved from a traditionally corrective standpoint to one that is more punitive. A final rule was published on February 16th of 2006 by HHS to impose civil monetary penalties on covered entities that violate any HIPAA administrative simplification requirements.

According to the Office for Civil Rights, you have the right to see or get a copy of your health information. This includes your medical record. To get a copy you will probably have to pay copying and mailing fees. Generally, your copies should be provided to you within 30 days. If you find information on your file that is incorrect or missing you can ask that it be changed. Changes should be updated or notated within 60 days.

A 2011 diabetes care study found that practices using electronic health records provided a better quality of care. There are numerous benefits to adopting this system of medical record keeping. Surprisingly, the adoption of rates for this method has grown much slower than expected. This is largely because Doctors and other healthcare facilities have concerns about the initial costs and productivity loss during implementation. However, once the system is implemented, identification time at hospital admission is reduced by as much as 65%. That is a difference of 130 hours to 46 hours. At this point moving to an electronic system is detrimental to your doctor’s productivity and can greatly increase the privacy and security of your medical record.

The Main takeaways for You to Consider

Electronic record keeping is how your doctor should be keeping your medical records private!

One of the best parts of moving to an electronic record keeping system is that both the Doctor and their patients can be on the same page. When it comes to communicating and keeping track of one’s personal health records. Relying on a seamless, efficient method like EHR allows for hospitals to have better quality of patient care, while also allowing for a more efficient clinic to be run.

All in all, making the move to the cloud is one of the best ways for a clinic to update their operations. While many hospitals have made the move, there are still many doctors who still rely on old fashioned papers and charts to keep track of their patients. The best thing you could do as a patient, is try to ask your Doctor about the methods they use to keep track of their patients. Perhaps, you can be the one to suggest an update for your favorite clinic. If you are really bothered by your current clinic’s lack of record keeping accuracy, you could also switch to a more efficient and updated provider.

Healthcare is a difficult topic to navigate. A patient’s privacy, and right to have accurate records kept has been an evolving topic with the introduction of more and more advanced software in clinics around the world. It’s important that patients know about their rights regarding their records, and that they are willing to support providers who go out of their way to support and protect their patient’s personal information.

Tim Esterdahl

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