Data is one of the most essential assets within the healthcare industry. Over the last twenty years, the industry has been digitized and become highly data intensive. In fact, the healthcare industry now generates 30% of the world’s data
This places every hospital and clinical environment in a difficult situation. Protecting this data and ensuring patients feel confident is crucial to succeeding in a crowded market, and not just for HIPAA compliance reasons.
In this guide, we discuss the top challenges facing medical records management authority figures, what you need to be aware of, and how to implement stringent data protection policies in your organization.
Regulatory Compliance and Legal Considerations
All medical data is considered sensitive. While standard data protection policies apply to all businesses, medical businesses must comply with the far stricter Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
Adhering to HIPAA rules is the cornerstone of managing records in the healthcare industry. In particular, compliance supports effective governance, making managing and using data easier.
However, compliance begins by updating your data collection policies to ensure that all data is accurate, complete, and fully updated. It also means running through your existing data to ensure your records match these higher standards.
Compliance will often require a complete overhaul of your existing setup. Failure to comply with HIPAA standards includes but is not limited to the following:
- Fines – According to the American Dental Association, a person who knowingly obtains or discloses individually identifiable health information can face $50,000 in penalties and one year in jail.
- Revenue Loss – Failing to protect your patients information could quickly lead to them going elsewhere, leading to a massive hole in your organization’s finances.
- Disruption – Cleaning up a data breach or significant data loss could take months. It will mean pulling your staff away from their usual duties to put out the fires.
- Loss of Reputation – Patients expect you to do your part to protect their information. Healthcare details are a sensitive topic, and not keeping them private can lead to a complete loss of confidence in your brand.
Finally, don’t underestimate the potential impact of not managing your data correctly. Approximately 60% of companies
that sustained a data breach went bankrupt due to a combination of the above factors.
You must stay updated on the current healthcare compliance rules and regulations and beware of upcoming changes.
Electronic Health Records (EHR) Implementation
Digitization is the most significant change to healthcare records management. Over the years, this has been the biggest of all the challenges facing medical records management.
Transitioning from paper-based records is crucial to streamlining your organization’s security and efficiency, but it raises challenges.
Benefits and Challenges Associated With Transitioning from Paper-Based Records to EHR Systems
EHR implementation is viewed as a best practice by healthcare organizations worldwide. Paper-based records are undeniably safer as well as providing easier access and sharing potential.
According to one study, paper-based records comprised 65% of all hospital data breaches
. Remember, even though electronic records are vulnerable, they are easier to track and monitor than rooms filled with filing cabinets.
Some of the other benefits of transitioning to EHR systems include:
- Make secure sharing simple.
- Create a clear audit trail to follow.
- Increase the completeness of the information.
- Provide a single source of truth.
- Make your staff more productive and efficient.
Unfortunately, there are issues with electronic medical records management implementation. In particular, healthcare managers must strike a balance between making data accessible and shareable without making that same data insecure.
This requires extensive training for all staff members and establishing clear internal guidelines governing every aspect of your new EHR system. In the short term, EHR implementation can result in tremendous disruption as data is migrated from paper to digital.
Strategies for Effective EHR Adoption and Staff Training
So, what is the answer to storing health information using an EHR system? If you’re struggling to plan and execute your strategy, here’s a brief step-by-step guide covering the main points.
- Establish clear goals, objectives, and budgets.
- Build your implementation team and complete a clear roadmap providing obvious timelines and which manager is responsible for each step.
- Engage your staff throughout the implementation process to generate additional buy-in.
- Work with an experienced vendor who can craft a reliable timeframe for implementation and training.
- Run usability tests among your staff. Consider the real-life scenarios your staff will encounter while using this new system.
- Establish a continuous training program to boost adoption and increase confidence. It could include webinars, online courses, and 1:1 sessions.
- Create additional support content so your staff has somewhere to refer to when encountering problems.
- Monitor adoption and engagement to see how your new EHR system is used and whether it fits your intentions.
- Request feedback from your staff. EHR implementation is always a work in progress, and you can always find ways to make your staff’s lives easier.
- Use your feedback to adjust and rework your EHR strategy.
Depending on the size of your clinic, implementing an EHR system can take anywhere from 90 days to 12 months.
Data Security and Privacy
Another of significant challenge facing medical records management is how to keep data secure and private. Unlike other industries, you also have additional security and privacy concerns while handling healthcare records in transit and at rest.
Who Manages Healthcare Records?
Firstly, who is responsible for managing healthcare records?
In the modern era, everyone with access to that data is responsible for implementing best practices to maintain optimal data privacy and security. Every time someone accesses a particular record, it is up to them to do their part.
This underlines the importance of teaching, educating, and reinforcing best practices to your staff because security and privacy are not issues that can be outsourced to the IT department.
Safeguarding Your Patients
Data security is a hot-button issue in every industry, but healthcare was one of the three most impacted sectors
Whenever data is accessed, shared, or moved, there is a chance for that data to become compromised. And that’s what makes security and privacy such vital issues. Data security today is about combining hardware, software, and humans to protect data.
It means abiding by the guiding principle that healthcare businesses should collect only the information they require, provide access only to those who need it for their roles, and destroy information that is no longer important.
The last point is especially pivotal to security, which is why Corodata provides comprehensive hardware shredding services to healthcare businesses across California.
Role of Encryption, Access Controls, and Audit Trails in Ensuring Data Protection
Cyberattacks represent your most significant threat, but how do you confront them? Generally, three primary defensive tactics exist to reduce the risk to your patients.
Regardless of your healthcare data management setup, here are the three things you must have.
Encryption is the most valuable data protection method at your disposal. Whether in transit or at rest, encryption makes it impossible for malicious actors actually to read the records they have gained access to.
Note that HIPAA offers zero guidance on how healthcare organizations should implement encryption, only that they should.
Restricting access to sensitive data lowers the number of entry points a cyberattacker could use to breach your EHR.
Implementing access restrictions means only allowing access to data by those who need that data for their roles. It also involves using multi-factor authentication to reject users without the proper credentials.
Key to any multi-factor authentication follows the principles of requesting:
- Information is known only to the user, such as a PIN or password.
- Only an authorized user has something on their person, like a keycard.
- Something unique to the user, like biometrics.
Audit trails allow you to track the progress of a file, user, piece of data, or even a data breach. This emphasizes the importance of comprehensive logs to monitor the usage of users, including the data, applications, and other resources they’re accessing.
Additionally, audit trails should be initiated based on suspicious behavior. Several AI solutions exist for flagging suspicious behavior that should be investigated via an audit trail.
All successful audit trails enable managers to pinpoint entry points, determine what has happened, and inspect any damages.
Retention and Disposal Policies
One of the core principles of medical records management is to delete data from the moment it is no longer required. However, it can be tricky to define your legal data storage obligations and create a system whereby data is removed after its term expires. This is why so many healthcare organizations continue to store data long after it’s no longer required.
Other than for data security purposes, operating ironclad retention and disposal policies saves your organization money because it doesn’t require the same storage space. Proper disposal and retention keep you nimble and agile.
What is an Appropriate Records Retention Schedule?
Unfortunately, every data type has relevant record retention guidelines
, with some needing to be maintained forever.
You must take the time to categorize your records and define the legal period you need to maintain those records.
For example, under HIPAA rules, healthcare providers must retain all medical records for at least six years under HIPAA rules. Note that this six-year timeline can apply to the record creation date or the last effective date, whichever is later.
Best Practices for Proper Record Retention
While storing records, you must adhere to best practices regarding your established policies and actions concerning those policies.
Before proceeding, you should know your legal and regulatory obligations, including general data security and privacy policies and healthcare-specific ones under HIPPA. Then, follow the below best practices:
- Determine Your Needs – Legal requirements come first. Second, you should design your retention policies to align with your critical processes to promote efficiency.
- Make it a Team Effort – Represent the interests of your business by engaging with everybody from your legal and finance departments to each separate team. You cannot implement these policies without organization-wide buy-in.
- Keep it Simple – Record retention policies should be simple, presented in easy-to-understand language, and crystal-clear to all involved.
- Be Transparent – Let your patients and other stakeholders know which information you are holding, why, and their rights to show your commitment to protecting those who matter most to your organization.
- Automate – Automation technology can simplify implementing your records retention schedule. Various solutions can notify you of when a data tranche is due to be deleted/destroyed, flag policy violations, and provide consistent data backups.
Strategies for Secure and Compliant Disposal of Outdated or Obsolete Records
Finally, how should you dispose of records? Whether on paper, digitized, or stored via a mass storage device, clear guidelines exist for how data must be disposed of.
The number one piece of advice is to engage a professional company to ensure that all data is destroyed to leave it irretrievable. Even though this requires a regular destruction schedule, you cover yourself legally by engaging a professional data destruction outfit.
Each time a registered company destroys data, you’ll receive a Certificate of Destruction (COD) demonstrating that you took all reasonable and necessary steps to dispose of data responsibly.
Never attempt to destroy outdated records in-house. This allows data to be retrieved via a dumpster-diving criminal or by reassembling a broken hard drive or computer.
Medical records management’s challenges revolve around making yourself aware of your legal obligations, creating an EHR, and implementing top-tier data security and privacy standards while having clear retention and disposal policies governing how you handle data.
At Corodata, we support hundreds of healthcare providers in the American Southwest by providing reliable, trustworthy data destruction and hard drive shredding services. Our friendly, professional team can provide one-time or scheduled destruction services to improve your compliance, efficiency, and security.
With Corodata, our business supports your patients in keeping their private data private. Contact us now to learn more about medical records management
, new technology, or scheduling destruction services.