Sure it may seem appealing for some doctors to be able to conduct business from one device as opposed to a number of tools. But where there is enthusiasm about technology, there is fear. Some find the thought of an iPhone replacing the stethoscope, sphygomometer and more in a hospital to be terrifying. The problem lies not in the creation of these apps but in that they open a new window of error for medical information that's protected under United States federal law to fly out of.
Professionals in health care are pointing a finger at digitization of private health information as the culprit in the uptick in security issues. Over 29 million patients' health care records have been breached since 2009, according to RedSpin. The number of records compromised increased over 137 percent between 2012 and 2013. Seven million records were breached in 2013. This spate of compromises correlates with the switch from traditional paper record-keeping to electronic health records, as stated in the report. Unlike the private information being stored within the vicinity of a hospital, employees carry it with them outside of work. Hundreds of thousands are files disbursed at the end of every shift and go to unwarranted locations.
SMS can violate HIPAA
With the exchange of one text message between two authorized health professionals who worked together at a nursing home in North Carolina, the resident's lab results were compromised, as reported by InformationWeek. As a result, the organization had to jump through hoops to recover from the incident despite there not being much damage done to the patient. The facility had to hire external help to educate employees on the importance of HIPAA, notify the residents of the breach and create a new compliance officer position.
In addition to the existing requirements imposed by the government, a law referred to as 'omnibus' by the media has been introduced into the mix. The legislation strengthens regulations under HIPAA but also holds health care professionals and the third-party service providers that are contracted to protect the information as directly liable for the breach of patient information, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
"Much has changed in health care since HIPAA was enacted over 15 years ago," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "The new rule will help protect patient privacy and safeguard patients' health information in an ever expanding digital age."
If it isn't broke, don't fix it
Penalties for those who don't comply with the terms of omnibus could include a fine $1.5 million per violation depending on the severity of negligence. No health care organization wants to be subject to those financial and reputation damages and sticking with traditional prescription pads and paper documents is a way to avert that disaster. A paper trail has been a reliable resource for medical professionals since the beginning, so why fix what isn't broken? Medical tools and private information do not need to be at risk. Doctors can focus on treating their patients without worrying about taking care of their potentially infected devices by continuing to use paperwork and tangible forms.