Keeping Patients’ Records Safe

By Lori McConvilleBlog

The ACA has new requirements for all health care organizations, but nursing homes tend to be behind the technological curve. Is your residents’ data protected?

Embracing digital records is a massive step forward for any company, but when a health care organization uses digital records, it can make transferring a patient’s information and anticipating a patient’s potential problems much faster and easier to manage. Digital medical records are such a positive aspect of health care in the twenty-first-century, but if you’re not careful and knowledgeable about how to implement this kind of technology, you may encounter some limitations and even some deficiencies of the technology.

If you own, operate or manage a health care organization of any kind, you know that recent changes in the country’s health care laws have instituted sweeping changes to the health care market, including requirements regarding the way health care organizations handle patients’ sensitive records, making it a requirement for health care organizations to follow certain rules and regulations regarding digital records.

But since health care is just as competitive as any other market in our economy, going above and beyond what the United States government requires you to do can not only give your patients a better health care experience, but it can also make your company more competitive overall. If you operate a nursing home, care home or another type of long-term residential care facility, properly managing your patients’ records digitally can help your residents and their families feel more comfortable with your facility.


The Future of Health Care: Digitizing Patients’ Medical Records

Since President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA), into law in 2010, the health care overhaul has made revolutionary changes in our health care system. While lowering the rate of uninsured Americans and requiring insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions have been two of the most frequently discussed aspects of the health care law, conversations regarding some of the other requirements of the ACA have been relatively quiet in the; this is especially true for the certain requirements of hospitals and other various health care organizations. Particularly, the discussion of how health care organizations take special care of patients’ digital records has been a feature of the health care law that the majority of Americans have overlooked or, in some situations, have no knowledge of.

Specifically, the ACA requires health care organizations to store data in a way that makes the transfer of information quick and simple. Transferring information efficiently from one medical setting to another is convenient for medical professionals, but it can also save lives. Creating partnerships that can work together efficiently is a cornerstone of the ACA’s plan for digital medical records; it’s an attempt to harness the power of many individual organizations and have them act in concert with one another, producing a sustained collaborative effort that will help keep our country’s health care system one of the best in the world.


Taking the Right Steps: Properly Storing and Caring for Data

Requiring health care facilities to take special care of their patients’ digital medical records is so important because as our use of technology in the medical field continues to grow, more and more of virtually every American’s personal information is digitized, making it vulnerable to what we typically think of as risks for digital records, like hackers and other types of online crime, but there are other kinds of threats that may not cross your mind immediately. For example, a natural disaster, such as tornados, flooding or earthquakes could wreak havoc on the hardware that stores patients’ sensitive medical records.

While many hospitals have taken the appropriate steps to secure their patients’ data, other players in the health care industry have not. Unfortunately, many nursing homes have not yet successfully protected their patients’ digital medical records. A sizable portion of nursing homes store their patients’ data on a private server on site. While this used to be a common practice, in recent years companies that handle sensitive data have been colocating their data at an established datacenter, a cost-effective way to secure personal data and protect your company from unforeseeable mishaps. For example, in the case of a natural disaster like a flood or wild fire, your first priority would be to move your residents to a safe location, but if your server cannot be easily moved, your residents’ records could be destroyed, inconveniencing your residents and their families and potentially harming the reputation of your facility.

Often, improperly securing a resident’s data isn’t done out of negligence; the people who run nursing homes simply don’t know the best practices for keeping medical records safe in today’s digital age. In most situations, it’s easier and much more cost-efficient for nursing homes to hire professionals, like established datacenters, to oversee the security of their residents’ medical records than trying to piece together a strategy and building and managing a private server to store data.

The ACA has certain requirements for health care organizations regarding the use and storage of patients’ data, and the technical nature of these requirements can be a bit complicated for someone who specializes in taking care of people — not servers. Datacenter companies, however, are professionals in the field and meet strict industry standards for storing all sorts of data, including data for hospitals and even the military. If your residents’ data is only kept on a server on site, you should reconsider how you plan on keeping up with the health care law’s increasingly stringent rules regarding patients’ medical records.

Enseva is one of the datacenter companies that offers colocation services to medical organizations like nursing homes and hospitals, so if you don’t feel that your facility has the capacity to secure your resident’s data up to the new ACA’s high standards, call Enseva today and speak with a helpful and knowledgeable representative who can give you advice and walk you through the process of colocation.