All health records now have to be electronically stored since the passing of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. This Act not only means that patient records have to be kept electronically but also that the privacy of these records has to be kept confidential. However, one may wonder if it is safe to have all records digitized. With the possibility of computer crashes and hackers, it is always possible that these records can be compromised. However, the digitizing of patient records can have some advantages if all the rules are followed and all safeguards are taken to keep records safe.
Less Possibility of Human Error
One of the most obvious advantages of digitizing health records is that there is less possibility for human errors. These records are kept on software made especially for keeping medical records, so there are built in features that will help prevent the possibility of human error. Of course, there is still the possibility of entering information incorrectly, but it is less likely to occur and those handling the information can check for these errors more easily, meaning they can be corrected more quickly and efficiently.
Medical Billers and Coders Have to Be Trained
Not only has the digitizing of patient records helped create careers for those who are interested in being in the medical field, it also means that those who want to work with patient records have to be professionally trained. In many medical settings, assistants have to perform office duties, but medical coders need a special set of skills in order to perform the job. This means that they are less likely to make errors than a general office worker who may not have to deal with medical codes. They also have to stay up to date on coding regulations.
Records Are Heavily Encrypted
Although there is the possibility that unauthorized personnel can access records, it is less likely to happen because the records are encoded and encrypted even when they have to be transferred. In addition to passwords, there may also be other safeguards including firewalls that will prevent unauthorized persons from reading patients’ medical records. This means records may be shared securely over an Internet interface or other wireless connection when it is necessary to share information. Patients do not have to worry about the violation of their privacy when dealing with sensitive medical conditions.
Sharing Information Unauthorized Is Less Likely
In addition to the digitization of records, HIPAA has various safeguards to discourage the sharing of information. HIPAA has gotten tougher on physicians as well, so they are not allowed to share sensitive information. The Act allows patients to find out who has accessed their records over a certain period of time. If information is shared without consent, the patient has the option of filing a complaint. Patients can also make certain confidentiality requests such as receiving phone calls at home rather than at the office about their records. While some requirements may vary according to state, HIPAA sets a national standard meant to protect patients.
Medical Establishments May Not Use the Same Programs
Medical establishments may also choose their own software preferences or programs when deciding what types of program will help them best stay compliant. This means that it may be even more difficult for unauthorized persons to access medical records without consent because the programs may not be the same. However, patients may be able to see their own records if they request through the proper channels. Digitizing records should not mean that they are written in indecipherable code, so patients should be able to understand them.
Author Bio: William Stevens is a writer who creates informative articles in relation to technology. In this article, he describes a few factors surrounding digitizing medical records and aims to encourage further study with an online masters in medical law.