Is Technology A Threat To The Privacy Of Information Under HIPAA?

HIPAA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 was a measure put in place to protect the confidentiality of patients’ health care information. By putting in measures to safeguard a patient’s confidentiality, the act allows patients to remain relatively annonymous, despite the storage and use of their medical records.

Though various medical centers need to be able to use patient information among office workers and also want to stay in touch with their patients for the purpose of building their business relations, the use of modern technology to accomplish these goals has a tendency to open up many opportunities for data leaks and HIPAA violations. The misuse of patient information is perhaps more of a regular problem within the medical community than surface’s in the mainstream media.

Where this problem is perhaps not such a big issue in a hospital setting, many free standing doctor’s offices, medical centers, and private labs may not have nearly the oversight in place to handle data leaks of patient information. In turn, HIPAA violations end up being potentially more frequent than even authorities in the field are aware and technology may prove to be making this problem way more significant than once imagined.

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How Technology Increases The Frequency Of Potential Patient Information Leaks.

If you have ever ventured into some free standing medical labs, it is common to see that many of these facilities have security cameras. What you may not realize is that these cameras are more often than not hooked up to the internet, giving business owners and hackers a like potentially a lot of insight into the patients who visit such free standing labs.

Even when the camera is mounted in the tech room of a medical lab, that electronic pathway has a view of potentially any patient records being opened and viewed by the technition on duty. Once that information moves from the camera to the internet, it is potentially free game for anyone savvy enough to know how to access it. Even EMR, the electronic medical records programs, are not immune to the efforts of hackers–especially if a doctor has his office set up so that he can access patient information by remote.

How Smart Phones Create HIPAA Violations

One of the potential ways patient information could be leaked from a medical office in the worse possible way is through an employee’s smart phone use. Cameras on smartphones gives an employee quick and easy snapshot access to any hard file or computer generated file on a screen.

Snap a picture of a patient’s confidential information, and before you know it the information can easily be electronically distributed all over the place. Or worse, coworkers in a doctor’s office texting each other information between the front and back offices, may accidentally make some of that sensitive information accessible by a spouse or friend that happens to get their hands on the workers phone or a discarded SIM chip. It is an unfortunate reality of modern technology that begs the question of how safe a patient’s confidential information truly is.

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Ajay is Tech blogger. He contributes to the Blogging, Gadgets, Social Media and Tech News section on TechFrill.