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Paper Medical Records Security Issues


paper medical records security issuesPrivacy and security have always been a major concern when it comes to the medical information and records of patients, most of whom want their information kept confidential. Due to paper medical records security issues over the years, the trend toward electronic medical record management has grown rapidly among healthcare industry practitioners of every type and at every level.                                                                           

Critical Paper Medical Records Security Issues

The introduction of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) made it even more critical from a legal perspective to find viable solutions to address paper medical records security issues. The overriding issues included those managing paper medical records had to have a certain standardized set of practices in place for protecting medical privacy, and also determining when and how this information could be shared. Here are some of the key security concerns associated with paper medical records that organizations must address:

  • Easily misplaced or misfiled: Paper is often hard to track and keep hold of, especially if certain pieces fall out of a stack paper file, get filed accidentally in the wrong place, or inadvertently end up in the wrong hands – either the original or an unauthorized copy.
  • Hard to track: Because there can be overwhelming  amounts of paper documentation, keeping track of everything - including where and how often certain portions of a paper medical record have been distributed and even destroyed, makes it easy for records to get lost in the shuffle. This also makes the paper files a key target for identity theft.
  • Unsecured housing: Often times, paper medical records are stored on filing shelves or in a lock-and-key setting either on-site or at an off-site storage facility. Typically, these types of housing locations are vulnerable to  a number of security and preservation  issues – especially in areas where there are weather-related concerns like tornadoes, hurricanes, flood zones, etc.. Relative to theft, some storage locations do not  have security mechanisms in place that  ensure paper medical records are inaccessible by unauthorized persons.
  • Faxing and copying threats: When faxing and copying paper medical records, extra copies can end up in a trash can or documents can accidentally be transmitted to the wrong location, creating further security concerns that undermine the safety and security of a patient’s medical information.

All of these paper medical records security issues, and others, increase a company’s level of risk and exposure to lawsuits form the patient as well as fines from those that oversee HIPAA compliance at large. The costs and damage to an organization’s reputation, longevity and overall bottom line necessitates a concerted risk management strategy be put in place to prevent these types of security concerns.

In Summary

In reviewing the security issues found with paper-based medical records, it is important to remember the following points made in this blog post:

  • HIPAA compliance applies to paper medical records as well.
  • Security issues include easily misplaced or misfiled medical records, a poor tracking system, unsecured housing for greater theft vulnerability, and mistakes related to extra copies of medical record information or mistakes when faxing to the wrong location.
  • These types of security issues leave medical practices and healthcare organizations vulnerable to lawsuits and stiff fines for non-compliance.

fig gungor

Fig Gungor is CEO of OneSource Document Management, a New York based company that offers a broad range of customized copy and scanning services that translate into a significant savings for insurance companies, hospitals and large medical facilities.


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