As medical companies begin to take advantage of the benefits of the cloud, numerous questions arise regarding data privacy, HIPAA, and electronic health records. Cloud-based EHR software makes it easier to manage patient records and thus provides a far better level of care to the patient. This is especially true for smaller practices and boutique medical companies. Nevertheless, there are a few security challenges that need to be addressed.
The Advantages of Cloud-Based EHR
Cloud-based EHR systems are simple, easy to use, affordable, and scalable. Medical practices are able to acquire the resources of the cloud to run an advanced, modern EHR platform — making it easier for smaller and boutique medical shops to compete with larger organizations. These EHR systems are often available for a low monthly fee rather than an upfront investment of equipment and software. Further, they don’t need on-site maintenance, limiting the need for dedicated IT professionals. Cloud-based EHR systems can be designed to give patients access to information that they need on-the-fly, and the web-based platform of a cloud solution is easy to use for employees. This cuts down on training time and makes the entire process of managing EHR cost less in terms of administrative hours.
Security Concerns Regarding Cloud-Based EHR
A cloud-based EHR system can be accessed from anywhere. Today, patients are often acting as their own advocates and want access to their own records — while this is convenient, it also means that the system is more open to potential intrusion. Cloud-based EHR systems are also fairly new. Whenever new systems are implemented, there can be some confusion regarding how they should be properly secured and maintained. Organizations that are only now transitioning to cloud-based EHR are more likely to make potential mistakes as they are not yet familiar with the system.
Best Practices for Cloud-Based EHR
- Encrypt all data. Data that is encrypted won’t be breached even if it is stolen. Nothing confidential should ever be transmitted in plain text. The most common mistake that medical organizations make is sending this type of information through email.
- Grant access sparingly. Access to EHR should only be granted to employees who strictly need it. The access should also be restricted to the permissions that are necessary — some employees may only need to be able to ‘read’ documents while others may need to ‘modify’ them. Even if employees are trustworthy, this protects the organization in the event that an employee’s account is breached.
- Conduct third-party audits. A third-party audit is the easiest way to ensure that a healthcare organization’s EHR system and medical records handling is up to par. If an independent, private audit finds any deficiencies, they can be corrected without penalty before they cause potential issues.
- Use specialized cloud services. There are many cloud services and hosting solutions available. It is always better for an organization to go with a cloud service that specializes in medical industries, as they will have specialized security systems.
Electronic health records are undoubtedly moving to the cloud within the next decade — as are nearly all applications and platforms. It will become the responsibility of medical organizations to ensure that their EHR system follows the above best practices and remains secure.