Is Patient Information Secure Within the EMR Software?
The security of electronic patient information is a top priority for any medical practice. Unlike paper records, which can be locked in a secured filing area and accessed by only one or two authorized users at a time, electronic medical records are transmitted over a network in order to be shared by many authorized users. Preventing security breaches is a key concern for medical practices, which must comply with HIPAA privacy regulations.
Patient information can remain secure if there are adequate measures in place to prevent and detect security breaches. All EMR software products may have certain security features in common, like multiple password protection, data encryption and automatic log-out procedures. However, the specifics of data protection vary among EMR software providers.
Security Questions for Your Vendor
When you consult vendors about implementing EMR software in your practice, prepare a list of questions to ask about the security of their product. Ask your vendor how access to the system is authorized, whether all users can access all areas of the system and what measures are in place to prevent unauthorized usage of electronic records. The system should also have an auditing feature that tracks access to electronic records, so that clinicians and administrative staff know who's had access to a particular file and which users have changed data.
While some EMR software products are hosted on a server at a clinic or hospital, others are hosted by the provider and administered over the internet. Reliable EMR software providers use data encryption techniques when your records are in transit to avoid security breaches. On the user's end, access to data can be protected with a unique username, an individual password and a password for the practice.
The EMR software you buy should have measures in place to prevent breaches if a PDA or other portable electronic device is lost or stolen. A doctor might lose a notebook computer that has access to your EMR network. The software should include an automatic log-out feature that prevents access to the system after a certain period of time, so that unauthorized users can't access records if they find the device.
In addition to talking with vendors about security, read EMR software reviews on reliable websites or in trade publications for information about privacy and confidentiality features. Most vendors will promote the security of their products as part of their sales effort. An objective reviewer does not have a vested interest in promoting a particular product or convincing you that the software is secure. Reading unbiased, authoritative reviews of the security features of a product will help you make a decision about whether an application is truly reliable.
Secure Backup and Storage Methods
The secure archival and storage of your patient records is as important as daily usage. Your EMR software company should perform regular backups of all patient data, which your practice can download at any time. The transmission and storage location of the data should be secure. Ask your vendor how files are transmitted, how often they are backed up and what measures are taken to ensure that the records aren't accessed by unauthorized users.
A secure, HIPAA compliant EMR software application can simplify your practice's workflow and may improve the quality of care you can offer your patients. However, even the most efficient practice management and record keeping software can compromise your patients' privacy and jeopardize your practice if the electronic information isn't secure. When you talk with vendors about the features of EMR software, your and your team members should be satisfied that the product offers top notch security for patient information.
As a two-doctor practice we have a very small staff, so getting an EMR software system through this site means that everything is perfectly organized and on time. Thanks.
Drs. Terrence and Russell, Seattle WA