HIPAA Violations – Patient Privacy
Health is one of the most prominent and important factors in most communities. Though there are several reasons behind this importance, the main is that health contributes to the wealth of a nation or country. Most countries have implemented ways to ensure the existence of a healthy nation. In this struggle, governments and institutions have formed multiple meetings, research and laws to ensure continuous improvement of health related aspects. While improving health care services, concerns on patient privacy have become important. Jeopardizing patient privacy hinders provision of quality health care. To solve most health care violations the first step is to improve patient privacy, according to most institutions and government this can be achieved using the electronic health records and observing the laid down health rules. The need to improve confidentiality or patient privacy has led to the continuous use of electronic health records as well as existence of strict health government rules and policies.
According to Diana, Barbra, and Deborah (1998), it should be a priority to place high emphasizes on the privacy, confidentiality and security of patient health information. Though theorists may see privacy in different levels, respecting and recognizing every attribute of patient information is necessary. Privacy is an important component to the well being of human beings and therefore has an intrinsic value. Respecting the privacy of others has a moral duty and every person even those in authority should respect it. In health services, patient information both written and spoken should be considered as personal information for the patient and therefore should be kept private. Maintaining patient privacy is important for the following reasons; allows the patient to make personal decisions or personal autonomy, encourages individuality, respect and up hold the dignity of human beings (Diana, Barbra, & Deborah, 1998).
Electronic health records comprises of a systematic collection of patient or population health information. The information collected is kept in digital format and in a manner capable of sharing and access to authorized persons. According to an article in the National Health care Quality Report (2004), electronic records have improved quality and convenience of health care in services in most health institution. This has been achieved by ensuring increased patient participation during provision of health care services. Electronic records are available to patients easily and therefore the patient can keep tap on what information if available about themselves. Storage of patient information is digital format allows constant monitoring to ensure that only authorized person can access the information, this is because use of data security systems such as passwords and dedicated networks can be introduced. Further electronic health records have also reduced patient privacy violation by improving care coordination. Proper coordination brings about reduction in the number of health practitioners who have to handle sensitive patient information. It also assists in increasing practice efficiency, accurate diagnoses and cost savings thus reducing the need for patient hospital visits and referrals. Therefore, electronic health records have improved the entire health care industry and assisted in solving major HIPAA violations which is patient privacy (AHRQ, 2004).
Just like there are advantages and disadvantages to paper medical records, there are also advantages and disadvantages to electronic health records (EHR). Since the system relies on technology advancement it is faced by several shortcomings that come along with technology. It is also worth noting that EHR is a fairly new system and is expected to continue improving as time goes by. Scientific and technological breakthrough is expected to be achieved even though some literature still argue that the technological break thorough have been achieved, it is evidence that the electronic records is a better and method than the paper records. “There have been technological breakthroughs but patient documentation has remained the same” (Young, 2000). The researchers view on the electronic records concept has remained stagnant for a long period after the launch, and this is a representation that the concept has little room for improvement. The slow pace of the concept exposes the patient to some reasonable degree of privacy violations. It has taken a long time to find permanent and reliable security measures for information stored in digital format. The fact that the patient still cannot be granted complete privacy in relation to health care, strict rules and government policies have been introduced to help boost the level of privacy (Young, 2000).
Government role in healthcare is to create systems that contribute to enhancing quality healthcare which is available to all. The Obama administrative goal on the same is to introduce a record system that is not only national wide but also one that is simple and quick to implement. The president recently introduced the ‘universal patient identifier’ which has improved communication among health practitioners as well and communication with patient and agencies. Since the identifier is technology supported, it has assisted to improve patient privacy though elimination of combat fraud and allowed only authorized medical research. Further the government understands that privacy cannot be fully assured even with the use of digital records due to the increase of cyber crimes but even so, it has assisted in solving the issue through laying down strict punishments enforced by law to the offenders. “It is high responsibility to protect patient” this is the law that health institutions and the government embrace when handling any topic related to health care. The health care institutions also provide written policies to assist all the practitioners in the healthcare sector to take a proactive approach on patient privacy when handling their information. The written policies consist of issues such as right of patient consent, right of patient to see audit, clear trail of record movement and responsibilities of healthcare staff to protect patient information (Robert, 2010).
Health information system provides the most reliable and faster way to provision of patient treatment and care. Health institutions have embraced several modern and new techniques to improve quality and availability of heath care. However, by doing so they are also faced by multiple HIPAA violations which the most severe being violation of patient privacy. Though it is true that healthcare has showed constant improvement on quality declaration, effective health systems and claims imbursement mainly because of the changes in the handling of health records, it is not fully determined that patient privacy has improved. In the recent past, the health industry has embraced use of electronic health records and revising of the existing measures to improve medical privacy. The Congress and the health institutions such as the HIPAA are working round the clock to find solutions to the limitations of using electronic health records with an aim of improving patient privacy even further.
Diana, W. Barbra, B. & Deborah, A. (1998) The Electronic Medical Oncology Record: Misconceptions, Barriers and Benefits. Retrieved from
Young, K. (2000) Informatics for Healthcare Professionals. Philadeplhia: F. A Davis
AHRQ. (2004) National Healthcare Quality Report. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. AHRQ Publication
Robert, P (2010). U.S. Issues Rules on Electronic Health Records. The New York Times.