Expert provides tips on protecting electronic health records

Nationwide mandate requires doctors to share health records electronically

By Sean Lavin - Producer

ORLANDO, Fla. - The traditional pad and pencil are disappearing from doctors' offices and being replaced with microphones for doctors to dictate your diagnosis directly into a computer.

[WEB EXTRA: Access your records from home]

The transition is part of a nationwide mandate to move to electronic medical records, and it's already happeningĀ  in Central Florida.

Nemours Children's Hospital has set up a network to share data.

"We're able to access records from any other clinic, hospital or other urgent-care center within the Nemours system," said Dr. Scott Baron.

Parents visiting Nemours pointed out the perks.

"You don't have to go explain to new medical providers the case history. There's records and files and all of that history is available, so that reassures you as a parent - you know they're going to be understanding the case," Christa Santos said.

Right now, Central Florida hospitals cannot share direct electronic access to medical records with hospitals under different ownership. The ultimate hope is that all hospitals, regardless of ownership, will be able to electronically share health records -- but exactly how that will be done is still being hammered out.

The issue of sharing records was the talk of the recent Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Convention, which brought 38,000 people to Orlando. Executive Vice President Carla Smith stressed security.

"We at HIMSS are very, very careful to help make sure we educate people on how to keep health information secure," Smith said.

She also shared some tips for patients to consider to help keep their records safe.

Smith suggests patients take a minute or two and ask their health care provider to discuss the security and confidentiality of their systems, so that patients have confidence doctors are taking good care of information and keeping it secure.

She also suggested patients ask for a copy of their medical records to check for accuracy, and be sure to use secure passwords when accessing records online.

The HIMSS conference brought vendors together to demonstrate how digital records could simplify a doctor visit.

In a mock scenario, a young child was transferred to a mock trauma center -- much like ORMC in Orlando -- after first being taken to a smaller hospital. Without electronic sharing, her records may have had to be printed and delivered to the trauma center in an ambulance, along with the patient.

"It would have only been there when the patient arrived," said Jeff Moffat, a vendor participating in the scenario showcasing electronic sharing. "Now, we're talking about as soon as they know she's coming, they can log onto their systems and begin to pull that information forward in real time."

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