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Electronic Health Records: Privacy, Confidentiality and Security

Electronic Health Records: Privacy, Confidentiality and Security

Healthcare is changing, so are the tools that are used to coordinate better care for patients. The use of electronic health records (EHRs) is widespread in developed countries but is only gradually displacing the use of paper records.

Advocates of health information technology promote EHRs, because they improve quality of care, reduce cost, enhance patient mobility, are more reliable, and enable evidence-based medicine. However, the questions around the privacy, confidentiality and security of health information are still making rounds.

The Need of Privacy, Confidentiality, and Security in Healthcare

From the health systems perspective, addressing security and privacy issues is critical not only for clinical care but also for public health and health systems research, because data from patient encounters are used in routine health information systems for program monitoring and assessment.

Additionally, security breaches of health information systems have economic, social, ethical, and legal implications, as evidenced by lawsuits arising from such incidents.

All of these challenges become more pressing with the rapid uptake of Internet services to share and access health information. Threats to the integrity of health information systems and the data they contain are real. Cyber security is required to prevent, detect, and act on unauthorized access to a health system and its information.

Therefore, ensuring privacy, security, confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected health information (PHI) in EHRs is absolutely necessary.

Putting Safeguards to Protect Patient Health Information

Electronic health records improve quality of care, reduce cost, enhance patient mobility are more reliable, and enable evidence-based medicine. Regardless of the format of patient health information — EHR, paper, mobile devices, or other media — healthcare providers and organizations must put safeguards in place to protect patient health information and comply with regulations.

With the growing need for healthcare providers to share and access health information across diverse and dispersed information systems and organizational boundaries, the interoperability of information systems has assumed greater significance for improved quality of care, efficiency and patient safety.

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