In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was put in place.
The purpose of enacting this law was to set limits on how patient health information can be used or shared within and outside medical practice.
Certainly, this law has helped keep patient records safe and secure over the past 12 years. However, there are still various unauthorized patient records ending up in the wrong hands.
How does this happen and what can you do to protect yourself against record breaches in your office?
Keep reading to find out…
How the Medical Records Release Process Should Work
To begin, it’s important to have an understanding of how the medical records release process is supposed to work under HIPAA regulations.
Here’s a quick overview…
- A person visits a medical provider.
- All the records (notes, labs, x-rays, etc.) from the person’s visit get stored in a medical database.
- If a patient and/or a legal or medical care provider need access to the records, they must get authorization to access the record.
- If the right permissions are in place and the authorization is cleared via HIPPA guidelines, the records are legally transferred to the person who requested them.
It seems like a fairly easy process. However, both human and technical errors put people’s medical records at risk of being breached every day.
5 Reasons Medical Records Get Accessed by Unauthorized Parties
#1 – Human Error
Human error is one of the most common reasons that medical records end up in the wrong hands.
All it takes is one untrained staff member or one employee who doesn’t understand HIPPA laws and regulations to make a mistake.
The worst part…most of the time, employees don’t realize they are doing anything wrong by releasing medical records–they simply want to help someone out and get the job done.
Aside from being naive about medical record regulations, people simply make mistakes.
Patient info can easily be filed or stored in the wrong place. And one wrong touch of a button can accidentally give the wrong people access to medical records that they are not authorized to see.
#2 – Cyber Attacks
Anything stored online is subject to cyber-attacks.
Thankfully, most medical records software, like our ChartRequest medical records release software, is set up with maximum security in mind.
That being said, a lot of databases that hold medical records information are not.
Once a hacker accesses the files of an unsecured database, those medical records could be sent anywhere.
This is why it’s so important that medical care providers choose a safe place to store their patients’ information.
#3 – Mishandling of Records
Once again, human error strikes in the mishandling of medical records.
Giving an unauthorized person access to private information can be as simple as leaving a copy of a paper out in a public space, misfiling a patient chart, or sending the wrong records to a person via email.
In large medical facilities, the likelihood of these things happening only increases as more people are needed to handle and transfer medical docs.
#4 – Theft
Theft is a major reason why private documents end up in the wrong hands.
One stolen device and an entire practice’s medical records can be put at risk.
For this reason, we recommend that medical records are stored in a secure cloud-based system and not on the technology itself.
#5 – Illegal Record Signing
Last, but certainly not least, is illegal record signing.
It’s amazing how many medical facilities don’t pay attention to who is signing forms. And, this lack of paying attention often ends up with medical records being released into the wrong hands.
It’s vital medical care providers and staff take the proper precautions–like IDing a patient–before the person is given access to information.
Sadly, this doesn’t happen all the time.
What Your Practice Can Do to Prevent Unauthorized Releases of Medical Records
One of the best ways to keep your patients’ medical records safe and secure is through using online medical release software.
That why we created Chart Request’s Medical Records Release software.
This software makes it easy for patients to request their records, while also keeping those records out of the hands of unauthorized people.
Best of all, our portals are hosted on our private servers and are HIPAA secure.
You can rest assured that every medical record request follows HIPPA guidelines as our record retrieval process is set up with HIPPA-regulated authentication controls.
Lessen your or your employee’s workload. Reduce the risk of being subjected to human error. And keep all your data private and secure with ChartRequest.
If you’re interested in seeing how ChartRequest can help streamline your medical records release process, we encourage you to request a demo here.