Digital Records Bring Pros, Cons to Health Care Industry

By Clements, Michael | THE JOURNAL RECORD, February 26, 2016 | Go to article overview

Digital Records Bring Pros, Cons to Health Care Industry


Clements, Michael, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Jay Wade, CEO of Red Earth Systems in Oklahoma City, said digitizing health care data is improving health care but also raising challenges.

"The biggest challenge by far is security," Wade said. "Health information is the most private information we have."

Putting health records into databases makes it easier for doctors from different hospitals and disciplines to provide better and faster care. Wade said that in the days of paper records patients were required to fill out endless forms each time they saw a specialist or visited a new provider. However, putting information online also makes it easier for unauthorized access to occur.

"You know that long form you have to fill out when you go to the doctor? By making this information accessible, people don't have to deal with that as much," Wade said. "The thing that makes it so great is also the downside."

And, as computers become more advanced, so do computer hackers. It's important for health care systems to be adequately protected and it is equally important for health care consumers to be informed about the risks and how to protect themselves. Wade said this can be done with a little research and by asking a few questions.

Rick Snyder, vice president for finance and information services for the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said doctors and hospitals understand the sensitivity of the information they have and are dedicated to protecting it.

"I would say that hospitals and other health care providers take the security of that information very seriously," Snyder said.

He said hospitals work constantly to ensure their security measures are up to the task. While acknowledging that breaches do occur, Snyder said those are rare and becoming rarer.

"There is no perfect safeguard," he said. "But health care providers are working to improve the system to keep data secure."

As part of that work, Snyder said Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Medicare requirements are continually being written and updated to keep up with threats. As part of its Eligibile Hospital and Critical Access Hospital EHR Incentive Program, Medicare has written a list of objectives and measures for the health care industry. These criteria are to serve as standards for health care providers to meet when storing patient data. The first of these objectives is to conduct an annual security risk analysis and to implement security updates as needed.

Snyder said the analysis is an in-depth examination of the provider's computer network and any hardware and software used to store data. Under the Medicare guidelines the analysis must be completed whenever new equipment is installed or software is upgraded.

"It's not a casual thing," he said. "The analysis is very thorough."

The American Hospital Association, of which the Oklahoma Hospital Association is a state affiliate, completed its 2015 Most Wired Survey to see how its members are doing when it comes to cybersecurity. The survey examined data from 2,213 hospitals, or 39 percent of all hospitals in the United States. …

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