Update

The Obama administration has pushed the adoption of electronic health records as a way to increase health care efficiency and safety. However, computerized drug orders may need further testing.

The University of Pennsylvania tested software intended to prevent dangerous drug interactions. The software successfully prevented the dispensing of two drugs together that taken in combination could cause dangerous complications.

The software's not ready for prime time yet. It also caused long delays that prevented some patients from getting the drugs they needed.

The study showed that doctors may need simpler methods to override computer blocks when prescribing drugs for patients with HIV and other conditions. For some patients, the prompt administration of both drugs is important.

Original Article

To help stimulate the economy, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law on February 17, 2009 by President Barack Obama. A large part of the Recovery Act addresses health information technology. It gives incentives for hospitals and business to switch to electronic health record systems. These changes are expected to improve the quality of care and result in cost savings to the health care system.

However, a potential problem with electronic health records and information is they can be easily copied, stolen or compromised. As a result, widespread adoption of such systems won't occur unless the privacy and security of patient information can be protected.

To meet these challenges, the Recovery Act contains significant revisions to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security requirements.

What Is the Purpose of the HITECH ACT?

Some states require a patient be notified if the security of their personal data has been breached. These laws generally cover personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and banking information, etc. However, only a few states have extended such laws to health information. The federal government has now addressed this issue.

There's a need to address threats and risks to this data as more businesses and hospitals electronically store their patients' information. The HITECH Act attempts to address the privacy and security concerns surrounding this information.

The fear is that hospitals may rush to start using the new technology just to receive the benefits under the Recovery Act. However, while hospitals and doctors are given incentives to use new health information technology, they'll also face bigger consequences if a data breach happens. Doctors and hospitals must implement the health information technology quickly but carefully.

How Are HIPAA and the HITECH Act Related?

One of the goals of HIPAA was to encourage individual control over personal health records. However, HIPAA didn't address or regulate the privacy or security of health information held by people who work with personal health records.

What Does the HITECH Act Require?

The HITECH Act includes several new requirements that were implied in HIPAA, such as:

• Notifying individuals when security breaches occur
• Regulating personal health record vendors
• Establishing more duties and penalties for business associates
• Increasing limits on the use and disclosure of protected health information
• Enforcing penalties when a breach has occurred

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Tagged as: Health Care, HITECH Act, health care lawyer