The past decade has encountered a strong push for medical providers across the United States to adapt to a universal electronic medical record system. Throughout this essay, we will discuss the effect of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act on the privacy of patient electronic medical records. This article discusses the failures and successes of HIPAA, including the strong and weak points of the legislation. Lastly, we will discuss more recent attempts at achieving a national system of electronic medical records, and recent attempts to strengthen privacy.
The quickly developing field of information technology has brought about many changes to medical records in the 21st century. In this short time frame, we have encountered a technological revolution in the medical industry. This revolution strongly revolves around the formation of electronic medical records. Because of these electronic medical records, personal health records quickly became available to many strangers working in health care, business associates and the insurance industry, placing privacy of medical records on the line. In order to standardize and protect consumer privacy rights in electronic medical records, the government passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to help regulate the industry. HIPAA established a series of standards for electronic transfers of personal data and several legislative laws to protect the medical privacy of consumers. Although HIPAA established many benefits in the industry, its shortcomings also became an issue in our exponentially growing technological state. This essay will establish these benefits and shortcomings, and take an in depth look at how the recent revisions to HIPAA in the Stimulus Plan of 2009 play out. Electronic Medical Records
For the past decade the Institute of Medicine has suggested that the information technology field “holds enormous potential for transforming the health care delivery system (Institute of Medicine).” In their report, the Institute of Medicine recommended that the United States health care industry should adopt an electronic medical record system (EMR). An electronic medical record is defined as a collection of a patient’s medical information in a digital form that can be viewed on a computer and easily shared by people taking care of the patient (U.S. National Institutes of Health). The main beneficiaries of EMR’s include “health care providers, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and many other sectors of the healthcare industry (Health Worldnet).” However, despite the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine only about 20% of primary care physicians have actually switched over to electronic medical records (Health Law). The majority of health care facilities still strongly rely on the standard paper filing method of the past. However, this is likely to change with the recent passing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which will be discussed later in detail.
Electronic medical records have many benefits. The most obvious of these is a higher quality of patient care. With the aid of other forms of health information technology physicians can better manage individual cases, receive reminders on what procedures to perform, and be warned of potential adverse drug complications. However, this done bring up the issue of “alert fatigue.” Several blogs raise the issue of physicians getting tired of alerts. MillCreek posted on KevinMD.com that “A growing problem with EMRs is ‘alert fatigue’, in which the clinician is so inundated with alerts that the urgent or panic values can get lost in the shuffle” (KevinMD.com). Electronic medical records are also able to minimize errors that are typically found in handwritten articles such as misspelling, illegibility, and...