There are major security issues with paper medical records, mostly because of the costly consequences of not securing protected health information. It wasn’t always this way. It is just that, in recent years, HIPAA has been expanded and there are more serious repercussions related to not following the regulatory requirements. The volume of documentation is not slowing either.
Another issue is that certain individuals (other than the patient) highly value this same information (PHI) found in patient medical records. As shown in the accompanying infographic, a patient medical identity is a lot more valuable to them than a social security number. This is just a thumbnail of it; you can click on the image to open in a new window and view the full size.
As you will see in that graphic, part of the reason for the high value is due to the times. Many U.S. citizens are without a means of obtaining healthcare. Some want to gain access to drugs for various intents. Others want it purely for financial gain. A patient medical record is a gateway to multiple means of theft and as such, is a natural high value target. This demand then spawns security issues for those who are accountable in protecting it.
The security issues with paper medical records involve factors such as running out of space – which means looking to off-site physical storage, usually in boxes. Paper is fragile and easily damaged or lost to elements such as fire, water, and other natural elements in an uncontrolled environment.
As noted, in addition to the natural elements, there are human ones as well. Moving paper medical records into storage might be the most risky way of storing them as many of the choices for storage can be easily broken into. Securing the access points to the records is what gets diminished in the process. In addition, while there are stories about dentists or smaller medical practices having their patient records auctioned off by storage companies because of not paying a bill, this has affected hospitals too who lose some or all of older paper-based patient records in a warehouse fire.
There are multiple factors all coming together to making security of medical records a prime focus. Much of this is a function of regulatory requirements, the current high demand for medical identities, and the fact that the healthcare industry, like many others, are in a transition stage in converting from paper to electronic records.
It is true that converting paper to electronic format will not solve every security issue. But the couple of issues that involve electronic records are much easier and less costly to deal with than paper. A solution to the security issues with paper medical records must tightly control access, while providing multiple backups of all medical data. Electronic formats can do this while paper cannot.
If you would like to share the infographic on paper based medical records, please use the link below. If you would like more information on converting from paper to imaged formats, please contact us.