Hospitals and other health care providers increasingly rely on cutting-edge technology to provide medical treatments to patients, and a growing number also realize the benefits of technological advances in administration and record-keeping. In the recent past, most health care providers maintained patient records in paper files, eventually transferring the completed records to microfilm for safekeeping. Many providers now, however, use computers and computer networks, microwave technology, facsimile machines, and optical scanning and storage equipment in the creation, transmission, storage and retrieval of medical records. Although a computer based patient record system can improve efficiency and the quality of care rendered by a provider, it may also increase a health care facilities exposure to liability under many of the legal theories or causes of action traditionally associated with health information management. It generates unique confidentiality and integrity concerns; for example, it increases the risk of improper disclosure of personal health information and computer sabotage of persons gaining unauthorized access to a computerized record system. There are a number of issues, more of an ethical rather than technological concern regarding electronic health records. An EHR is defined as a longitudinal collection of electronic health information that provides immediate electronic access by authorized users. (HIMSS) An EHR may involve knowledge and decision support tools that enhance safety and efficiency as well as support of efficient processes for health care delivery. As new advances in technology occur and the value of large databases of clinical data continues to grow, the conversion of records from paper to a computerized format will remain a dominating trend in health information management in the decade to come. Health care reform initiatives and the increasing penetration of managed care into the health care delivery system have...
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