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Stephen O'Connor

By: Stephen O'Connor on January 15th, 2020

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5 Reasons Why Electronic Health Records are Better than Paper Records

Electronic Health Records

By now, leadership in your medical organization is starting to conclude that there are more problems than benefits in continuing to use paper-based records and it is time to make the switch to electronic health records. While some practices can manage to get by using old-fashioned paper, the drawbacks can no longer be ignored. Paper records are simply too insecure and it is becoming increasingly difficult to justify using this outdated method of maintaining patient files.

In fact, using an electronic health record or EHR system offers you much better control over information security. To help you make the case to your team for going forward with an EHR, here are five reasons why electronic health records are more secure than paper records.

1. Grant Access Only to Authorized Users

A paper-based system for your patients’ medical records makes it easier for an unauthorized person to access them without your knowledge. During the course of a busy day, an employee might leave a patient’s file out instead of putting it back in the filing cabinet, for example. Or someone misfiles the information, which is even worse for the patients in question.

If you’ve ever been photocopying important documents and then became distracted by a phone call or other diversion of your attention, you know how easy it is to leave a document behind for someone else to view. With an EHR system, you can control precisely who has access to patient information and when. 

What’s more, the electronic version of the patient’s chart is now more convenient to share with other concerned parties. This includes, for example, providing a follow-up report to the physician who sent a patient to see one of your specialists. You can send it electronically instantly instead of arranging for a courier or overnight mail, and the information you transmit will be protected from end-to-end, keeping patient information secure yet more convenient to use.

2. Encryption Keeps Information Secure

A paper record is easily exposed, letting anyone see it, transcribe details, make a copy or even scan or fax the information to a third party. In contrast, electronic records can be protected with robust encryption methods to keep crucial patient information secure from prying eyes.

Your organization already must do everything possible to comply with HIPAA and other privacy regulations, and electronic health records make it easier to maintain confidentiality over paper records in this respect.

In a striking example of an organization failing to protect patients’ information in paper records, the U.S. Health and Human Services reported that its Office for Civil Rights levied a fine of $2.15 million to Jackson Health Systems because it had lost paper records storing protected health information or PHI of 756 of its patients. Paper records do not provide you and your patients the robust security that automatically comes with an EHR.

3. Paper Records Subject to Tampering

Paper records can be altered in a manner that can be difficult to detect. Someone can remove papers from a report, for example, or produce an altered copy to substitute for the real information.

Electronic health records are protected by encryption and strong login and password systems that make it much more difficult for someone to make unauthorized adjustments to the patient’s chart and other information. Using an EHR clearly helps you maintain pristine records.

4. Audit Trails

Electronic health record or EHR systems give medical organizations enhanced security because they let you do audit trails. Typically, there is no foolproof method for doing audit trails on paper records. How would you know who was the last person to explore a patient’s chart, or if they altered the records?

With an EHR system, you can quickly determine which people have accessed a patient’s records when they did so and whether the access was authorized. In the event that someone accesses information that they shouldn’t be seeing, an audit will shine a light on the situation, unlike paper records, which can be problematic to control. Of course, your properly trained employees will be aware of these safeguards and this can be an incentive to mind their own business.

5. Data Backup after Disasters

Keeping your patients’ records secure involves much more than controlling access to confidential information. You also need to make sure that the data will be available under worst-case scenarios. For example, in the event of criminal trespass or vandalism or natural disasters such as a fire, flood or earthquake, you will be able to restore your confidential patient data from an offsite backup and get back up and running much more quickly than if your organization was relying on a paper-based system.

Consider the fact that criminal hackers are increasingly turning their attention to the gold mine of data contained in unsecured patient health records. According to a report on data breaches from CISO Magazine for computer information security professionals, “The financial health of the healthcare industry might get even worse with data breaches expected to cost US$ 4 billion by the end of the year.”

So if your organization is hit by a ransomware attack that attempts to freeze patient data until you pay a large sum in bitcoin, you can disregard the hackers. Instead, your IT department wipes the system and updates it with the backup data and you can go about your business of diagnosing and treating patients.

As you can see, switching over to electronic health records will provide your organization with more safety and security for your patients’ confidential data. An EHR system also provides you with a number of other benefits, including increased staff efficiency and reduced errors while helping you become more profitable. 

With your busy schedule, you may have limited time to become more familiar with all the useful aspects of electronic health care records software. To learn more, please click here to watch our Electronic Health Records demo video.

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About Stephen O'Connor

As a Director of Digital Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, Stephen spends his day's planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern healthcare professional. He has a strong affinity for snow crab legs, the ocean, and Rutgers Football.