Privacy and confidentiality are at the center of any patient-physician relationship. Recent data breaches of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) have underscored a need for hospitals to update their systems and adapt to changing times.
Howard University Hospital sent letters to more than 34,000 of its patients in the last week of March 2012 notifying them of a data breach of its EHR. 10 disks containing health information of more than 315,000 patients went missing from Emory Healthcare in Atlanta in mid-April 2012. Hospitals can and should take steps to ensure the personal health data of their patients remain as confidential as possible.
Hospitals need to adopt breach protection software. Hackers have increased their activities in recent years. Hackers and hacker groups like Anonymous are responsible for a 58 percent increase in EHR “hactivity” from 2010 to 2011 according to a study by Verizon called “Data Breach Investigations Report.”
Hospitals also need to ensure that their own employees are properly supervised and that patients’ personal health information cannot be transferred from EHR systems to an employee’s cell phone or laptop.
More patients as well as modern technology have motivated hospitals to store patient health data in EHR. Hospitals need to adopt measures that ensure their patients’ health data remains private and does not end up in the hands of a person or group of people who have nefarious intentions. Patients need to feel secure that their personal information cannot be easily compromised. Lost and stolen disks as well as hacker activity can lead to financial losses and the exposure of patients’ personal health data.