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As hospitals across the country work to adopt electronic health records (EHR), critics worry that breaches in security, malpractice and violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) will increase.
“Some physicians are against the change,” Bae says. “They want to stick with what they know works.”
Among the intended benefits of EHR are the ability to boost patient participation in their own care, to raise accuracy of diagnosis and health outcomes and to improve care coordination.
The article, written by Bae and lead author William E. Encinosa of Georgetown University, predicts that the adoption of EHR will result in a reduced number of adverse drug events.
“In our study, we found that hospitals that did not use electronic health records saw medical errors increase by 14 percent,” Bae says. “I think the whole system of the hospital changes because of electronic health records. They will have the means to improve efficiency.”
Thanks in part to the 2011 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, and nearly $30 billion in incentives, hospitals across the country are being encouraged to quickly incorporate the new system.
The goal is to have computer systems from clinics across the country talking to each other—linked and 100 percent compatible—to improve patient care and reduce costs by reducing duplication of services by 2016.
Another concern among critics is that physicians are failing to properly record information, which can lead to misdiagnoses and additional patient health complications. So, while EHR is intended to streamline medical institutions, Bae acknowledges that there are some minor obstacles.
“The system has changed, so there’s a learning curve, and I think that’s one reason why there’s concern,” Bae says. “Because we’re in the early stages, physicians might take more time to put information in the computer, so there’s a decrease in efficiency in that regard. The good thing is that the information is more widely accessible.”
Others are concerned that the software can create opportunities for personal information to be stolen.
Jim Fatz, director of investigations in the Department of Information Technology Services, says that medical records contain a wealth of information that can be used for identity theft. As long as all guidelines meet HIPAA standards, Fatz says, then there’s no reason for concern. If people can trust websites such as Amazon or Paypal with personal information, hospitals can be trusted with patient records.
“If an entity maintains their own records locally, then the burden is on them to keep the records safe,” Fatz says. “If they meet the standards that have been set, then it shouldn’t be much of an issue. The software used for health records is no different than any other system that compiles personal information.”
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