Protecting Patient Privacy
There is a great challenge, in health care, of ensuring protection of patient’s privacy and at the same time maintaining efficiency. However, there is a better approach on how to handle the two situations successfully by employing elaborate plans and strategies. The great challenge in protecting the privacy of patients is posed by the use of technology, where record keeping is done electronically. As a requirement by the law, both federal and state government, necessary steps must be put in place to ensure that patient’s privacy is well protected. Every organization handling health care matters, as a general rule, must comply with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule.
Information technology is revolutionizing healthcare and increasing efficiency in a manner that, it has reduced medical and human errors, it has provide faster access of relevant information of patients and ensured a great saving in general healthcare expenses (Kramer et al, 2004). Therefore, due to many services that are served by use of information technology, it is important to support the system. Nevertheless, it is always hard to ascertain how confidential the records can be when they are stored electronically. However, measures can be instituted to protect against illegal use of patients information, or disclosure of the information.
One of the measures that can be taken to ensure safety of patient’s information is enforcing administrative safeguards. These safeguards are measures and elaborate policies that are part of the organizational culture, made to ensure privacy and security to all information about patient’s health. The safeguarding mechanisms involve; getting reliable information system, implementation of programs to manage risk, formulation and deployment of necessary policies and importantly, conducting risk assessment to ensure that the systems are reliable (Kramer, 2004).
Using physical safeguards is another necessary step of ensuring reliability of the systems and at the same time ensuring efficiency in health care (Leino-Kilpi, 2000). This involves use of measures that can protect the physical hardware and other components that helps in the storage of patient’s information. Normally, these components are affected by physical threats which also affect the security of the stored information. In order to ensure that physical safeguarding is well enforced, relevant policies together with necessary procedures should be formulated. There should be barriers to ensure the access to health information is only allowed to authorized personnel. Work stations containing patient’s information should be well guarded and protected and only the authorized people should be allowed to access them. Every healthcare organization should have a device control which ensures that transfer of hardware, data backups and electronic facilities is monitored. Uncontrolled movement of these facilities can lead to leakage of patient’s information to unauthorized people and therefore leading to infringement of patient’s rights.
Another important step is putting in place technical safeguards, which should be installed in the IT (Information Technology) Systems to ensure that the information is well protected (Leino-Kilpi, 2000). Technical safeguarding involves procedures likes restricting access to unauthorized information; ensure safety of the information while being transferred from one source to another, and also protecting the information from possible hacking of the information systems. Putting strict control measures against unauthorized persons can ensure that patient’s information does not leak out unnecessarily. Also, audit controls should be used in order to enable access of information on how the activities in the IT stems are conducted for the sake of transparency and accountability. Creating policies and procedure of enforcing the IT controls can help protect patient’s privacy. Program software’s containing information about patients health should be well protected to ensure safety and privacy.
Leino-Kilpi, H., (2000). “Patient’s autonomy, privacy and informed consent”. Amsterdam u.a: IOS Press
Kramer, D. J., McCoy, M. L., & Holcomb, S. (2004). Violated?: Patient health care privacy at risk. Coral
Springs, FL: Llumina Press.