09 March 2011

Privacy of EMRs or EHRs Is of Major Concern

This is a common concern for both the patients and doctors. Your electric medical records (EMRs) or electronic health records (EHRs) depending on who is writing about them are the topic of an interview with Eric Liederman, MD, MPH, director of medical informatics for Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect, in Sacramento, California, and associate clinical professor of internal medicine at the University of California, Davis.

He refers to (ERs) electronic records and the challenges and strategies for dealing with them in a presentation titled - Protecting Privacy Without Harming Patients. He says access to ERs can't be monitored, but that access to a patient's data is recorded. Consistent and proactive surveillance of ERs activity, in addition to investigation of issues discovered can be a very strong deterrent to patient privacy.

What he failed to mention in the interview and others seem to forget is a system in place requiring anyone working with patient records to be informed of the consequences of talking about what may have been seen, even accidentally, to a third party may result in immediate dismissal. I have to wonder at times what is happening in one of my doctor's office as there is quite frequently a different person as receptionist or nurse and the previous person is not even in the office. I have never inquired, so I don't know if rotation is the practice or if someone has moved on.

What is of concern is achieving a balance in restrictions and access. The ERs need to be accessible quickly, especially in emergencies, but at the same time there needs to be restrictions in place to limit who has access. That is the reason for having an audit trail, surveillance, and on-going investigations of any complaints.

It is a shame in our society that people feel the need to have the latest in gossip to spread about people and feel that medical records will provide this gossip. One of our local hospitals has a large problem with this, yet seems to be doing nothing to stop a few nosy people who always are spreading the latest gossip after certain people have been in the hospital.

Read the interview here.

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