HIPAA and advances in health information technology
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enacted in 1996, is one of the most commonly recognized pieces of healthcare legislation governing privacy and security concerns of patients. As technology advances, so does the need for more efficient storing and communication of information. Unfortunately, so does the risk of unlawful attainment and transfer of such information. Patient privacy and the physician-patient relationship is a sacred part of healthcare and cannot be weakened. This law was created to prevent fraud, abuse, and unlawful dissemination of information. Like many healthcare laws, it has also been amended to include provisions that apply to the evolving needs of patients and advanced healthcare facilities.

Subtitle D of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, addresses the privacy and security concerns associated with the electronic transmission of health information. These laws and their sub-clauses are critical because it will be a part of every physician’s practice. This is not only predicted to be the wave of the future, but will be mandated as such. Many deaths and subsequent lawsuits in the United States are due to medical error. This is another problem that the advances of health information technology will seek to remedy.
The healthcare system in the United States is rapidly evolving with an increase in an aging population, rising costs, and sweeping advancements in technology. A rise in consumer expectations for all goods and services, efficiency, and competition has forced the health care industry to keep up or risk serious damage. Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) are meant to be the wave of the future with medical technology in assisting hospitals, physicians, nurses, and even the patients. The concept has enjoyed broad political and public support while the practicality of actually using them has been met with some trepidation due to financial and legal barriers. Regardless of such obstacles, the Obama administration and the Bush (43) administration before it have strongly supported the funding and expansion of EMRs as a means of modernizing and improving the United States healthcare system by bringing it into the 21st Century through American innovation.

The biggest thing physicians and hospitals need to with moving to EMRs is try to understand what functionalities they need and how they will work within their offices. Working with the right vendor is also something that needs to be taken into consideration when shifting toward EMRs. They are going to provide the hospital or physician’s office with the right amount of technology that will make it easier and more efficient to use the EMRs. Larger facilities are not going to need the same type of EMR system as a smaller facility. This is especially true when it comes to dealing with costs as larger hospitals might find it easier to handle the costs of an EMR system while a small practice might not have the same capability.

In the next few years, “more and more hospital organizations are trying to figure out how they are going to take advantage of the change and propel EMR solutions to the community physicians.” The big shift in the debate of EMR systems is the ability to get smaller practices to use these systems. In order to get the small practices on board with the larger hospitals, the costs must be low enough while the benefits are great enough for small practices to use EMRs. If both large and small practices are able to switch to EMR systems there will be greater benefit realized for these practices, hospital organizations and patients.

Besides physicians and hospitals, patients are going to benefit in the future with the implementation of EMRs. Patients will be able to view and update their medical records as easy as paying bills online now. This will also allow for patients to see any physician in the country and have their medical records instantly transferred. Furthermore, EMRs will increase the use of preventative care along with decrease the amount of misdiagnoses by physicians. The next few years could really help decrease the costs and provide better health care for the whole population.

We advise our clients on the advantages and disadvantages, including the costs of implementation and restrictions on research, for complying with and implementing HIPAA standards. We also have drafted non-disclosure agreements and other relevant contracts between companies specializing in implementing health information technology in their respective locales. This includes physician’s offices, hospitals, imaging centers, and home health agencies.