Magazine article Drug Topics

Confidential Dilemma

Magazine article Drug Topics

Confidential Dilemma

Article excerpt

Patient records aren't hackerproof, but R.Ph.s can help

As technology makes it easier for patient health-care records to zip around the Internet, pharmacists should take steps to ensure that they are protected from prying eyes, advised an attorney who specializes in cyberlaw.

Making patient records absolutely secure in cyberspace is a mission impossible, said Anthony Lupo, speaking at the recent annual meeting of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy in San Diego. But that doesn't mean pharmacists shouldn't take steps to screen those sensitive records from prying eyes and, at the same time, to insulate themselves from legal liability in the event of a leak in the ether.

Pharmacists who get into the Internet or send patient records electronically should create different tiers of access to the information and users of the system. Some personnel might be allowed to write and manipulate patient data, others might be restricted to a "read" only mode, and some might be locked out of the system entirely, Lupo suggested.

Assigning passwords is an essential step, Lupo said. And these Open Sesames should be changed frequently. Also, the pharmacy should have written agreements with system users, spelling out exactly what they can and cannot do with patient records. Another safeguard is to create protocols and standards in regard to when information can or cannot be disclosed. There should also be a disclaimer that pops up on screen to remind users what is or is not permitted.

It's vital to have a backup plan for storing electronic patient information, Lupo advised. …

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