April 22, 2015 by

As spring cleaning season is underway, many households in 2015 are finding one less thing they have to get rid of—paper records.

Digitally storing sensitive information, such as medical records, is becoming a popular choice for families, but it also exposes them to the risk of having their Pandora’s box opened if their computer is hacked.

As a result, not everyone is down with digital record keeping. The Boy Scouts of America recently requested that troop leaders don’t keep digital copies of scouts’ medical records. According to a statement on the BSA’s website, the BSA is “not ready to address” the risks associated with digitizing records, namely the loss of privacy and data if someone was to steal those records.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that parents shouldn’t keep digital copies of their own children’s records. Most hospitals now have some kind of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system, and take care to make sure that their patients’ information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Dr. Dana Zanone, medical director of informatics for all of CHI Health Alegent Creighton Clinics, has seen firsthand how much an efficient, secure, EMR system can have an impact on her patients and their families.

“I have one lady that has nine children, and one of her children is disabled. One day when she was in our office we actually signed her up and all of her children, and gave her proxy access so she could keep track of all their medical records and information,” says Dr. Zanone.

All CHI Health Clinics use a system called Epic, the largest EMR system in the country. Epic also has a patient portal called MyChart, through which patients can access their medical records on any computer.

But easier access for patients also means easier access for hackers, at least in systems that aren’t prepared to handle a large amount of patient information securely.

Anthem, the nation’s second-largest health insurance company, announced on Feb. 4 that its systems were hacked, compromising sensitive medical and demographic information for as many as 80 million customers.

But Dr. Zanone insists that Epic and most government-certified EMR system are safe from an Anthem-like hack.

“We have multiple servers, so your ability to get in and extract
that amount of data would be, I would think, almost impossible,”
says Dr. Zanone.

If parents are still worried, she suggests they ask their doctor if he or she uses a government-certified EMR system. Some clinics will use a system that they created themselves, which often contains fewer firewalls and security precautions.

Dr. Zanone also says that any health care providers that require you to submit medical information via text or an unsecure email, or any health care portal that stores your password should be cause for concern. Finally, if you do want to keep a personal copy of your medical records, Dr. Zanone recommends storing it on a hard drive, rather than your computer.

“In your healthcare information is a lot of your demographic information, which almost always includes your Social Security number and your insurance information,” says Dr. Zanone. “That can easily be used for identity theft, and you need to be very careful about that.”

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