Take this common example, you going to a new doctors office and having to transfer over your medical records, you call your old office for the 3rd time only to be told that your records were already sent over. The new doctors office has never received them, and you’re at a loss of what to do. This seems to happen time and time again. Then there is the other situation, where you must restate your entire medical history. You’re legitimately unsure if you’re allergic to any medicines because you were an infant when you were given the majority of your vaccines. You check “no” because you do not know what medicine you would be allergic to if you checked “yes.” However, you are kept wondering if you doctor could be missing something. Now imagine, in this new world, all your medical records are linked to your name (social security number, etc.) and you show up at a new doctors office, grant them permission to access your medical history, and voila, you are done and do not have to worry about human error coming into play! This increases efficiency not just for the patient, but also for the medical staff that would otherwise have to process the information, call back and forth between offices for the information, and remember to correctly file the documents once they have been faxed over two hours later.
Why is sharing information between doctors so difficult? In part, because the healthcare industry is slow to pick up on technological advances. “Although health records are increasingly electronic, they are often still trapped in silos. Many contain data that machines cannot read.” Digitizing and greater ease of access to medical records could make sharing information between your dermatologist, primary care doctor, nutritionist, and psychiatrist become the norm. “Many of the 250,000 deaths in America attributable to medical error each year can be traced to poorly co-ordinated care.” This new, holistic approach to medicine would dramatically increase the quality of care provided and could be just what the patient and the healthcare industry needs.
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In 2015 it was reported that a dumpster diver in Chicago found the medical records and was selling the files for money. Regulations clearly state that these files were to be shredded or destroyed.
With over 2000 patient’s medical records breached, The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights clearly had to take firm action. “OCR Director Roger Severino stated ‘Covered entities and business associates need to be aware that OCR is committed to enforcing HIPAA regardless of whether a covered entity is opening its doors or closing them. HIPAA still applies.’” Even though FileFax was on it’s way out, this still represented a breach of HIPAA that needs to be addressed. Suburban Lung Associates was the healthcare provider that contracted FileFax to dispose of the medical records, without knowing they would haphazardly get the job done. Joe Gillespie, a security and privacy consultant, has encountered many businesses claiming they properly store and dispose of medical records, but when it came down to it ,“it was obvious in talking with some of them that they did not have the depth of regulatory knowledge that is necessary.” In healthcare is truly takes a commitment to quality to perform at an appropriate level.
The lesson to learn? If healthcare organizations are not careful at all levels with who they contract, they put their patients at risk.