Primary Problems Associated with Information Management and Patient Confidentiality
There are many different issues associated with information management of patient data and the maintenance of patient confidentiality. These issues are compounded as a result of the fact that all medical information must remain in compliance with all HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protocols and mandates. “The paradox of privacy and confidentiality in relation to health care is that patients must relinquish some degree of both in order to obtain the health care they require” (Deshefy-Longhi, et al., 2004, p. 378); however, the more individuals that require access to the information, the more likely that the information may get into the wrong hands, spreading confidential information to those who are not on a need to know basis.
Issues include dissemination of information to unauthorized individuals, misplacing of paperwork, and misfiling of paperwork, regardless of whether or not the information is stored in an electronic or paper format. If any of these issues are to occur, the HIPPA mandates are broken, as they require that the medical record information be maintained in confidentiality, that individuals must have consent forms signed and sent in to gain access to the information, and that they only be allowed access to information explicitly related to the individual on the consent form. While it is clear that many offices are working to ensure that these errors and issues do not arise, the protocols themselves do not account for the propensity toward human error that is unavoidable in any setting. Through the continued development of patient information management systems, these issues are slowly being addressed (Office of Information Technology, 2009), though it is clear that we still have a long way to go.
Alignment of Professional Responsibility and Management of Patient Information
Professional responsibilities, when dealing with patient information, patient data, and patient confidentiality, are often the result of overlapping general roles within the multidisciplinary approach to patient care. Patient data is transferred from person to person and from department to department in order to work to ensure that patients are able to receive all of the care they need in one location. 21st century hospitals still utilize a mixture of paper records and charts and electronic health records, creating the first point of discrepancy and the potential for the information to become waylaid or misplaced. Due to the fact that electronic health records are still relatively new technology, the majority of past data is in paper form, though there are those facilities that are working to move that information into the online medium; this, combined with the fact that many are still unfamiliar with the new systems and a simple miss click may result in the addition of patient data to the wrong file, means that there are still issues not only with the maintenance of data, but the management of patient information.
It is clear that once the many bugs are smoothed out, and once individuals are familiar with the new management, storage, and maintenance of these records, the benefits of the use of electronic health records will far outweigh the risks (WHO, n.d., p. 17). Electronic health records allow for a clear synchronization of all patient information across all disciplines, or will, as soon as the flaws within the system are removed and medical professionals and staff are fully versed in the new methods of maintenance and synchronization.
- Deshefy-Longhi, T., Dixon, J., Olsen, D., & Grey, M. (2004). Privacy and confidentiality issues in primary care: Views of advanced practice nurses and their patients. Nursing Ethics, 11(4), 378–393. doi:10.1191/ 0969733004ne710oa
- Office of Information Technology,. (2009). Patient Information Management System. Retrieved 16 May 2014, from https://www.ihs.gov
- WHO,. (2014). Management of patient information. Retrieved 16 May 2014, from http://apps.who.int