Protecting patients with digital medical records

protecting patients datascan

Of all the forms of digital data out there, health records must surely rate among the most sensitive. And yet, digitising them not only increases efficiency, but has the potential to save lives.

Datascan Document Services recently contributed to a feature in the Sunday Business Post and we share that with you here.

It is widely acknowledged that technology is changing and advancing in every area of patient care, but as it does there is also a growing awareness of privacy and security issues. With the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) now in place, the stakes have never been higher when it comes to medical records.

With the reporting on, and campaigns around, the GDPR, Datascan Document Service director Orla Cafferty says there is more awareness than ever among medical professionals of the need for confidentiality and the integrity of patient information. Happily, compliance can be married to digitalisation. “There is great potential for ICT to deliver efficiency gains in health service administration,” she said. “The GDPR places huge responsibilities on holders of sensitive personal data such as medical records, to hold, manage and process data in a manner that is compliant with the new regulations, and more importantly, can be proven to be compliant.”

Manage medical data

Datascan works with GP practices, health centres and private hospitals to help them manage data, including with encryption and cloud-based solutions. “We can help them control the paper coming in and get it into the patient management system in a secure and accurate way,” she said. Given that the healthcare sector remains paperwork-heavy this can only be welcome.

“You can control the amount of paper that you create, but you can’t really control what comes in,” said Cafferty. Indeed, the HSE is undergoing its own digital transformation at the moment, and Datascan’s medical records scanning department is focused on helping private practices link into this. “It’s still the case in Ireland that there is no one single solution for electronic patient records for GP practices, primary care centres or for private hospital consultants operating in either public or private acute hospitals,” said Cafferty.

In addition, as there are a number of companies in patient management, Datascan ensures it is able to work with all of them. The fact is that digitalisation itself is only the first step, though: after that is making the records available to authorised medical care partner organisations, whether that is clinics or hospitals.

Cloud for records

As a result, the cloud is the ideal place for records. “Medical professionals working from multiple sites need to be able to access patient records in all locations and securely storing patient files in a cloud repository facilitates this,” she said. Storing records not only electronically but in the cloud has many advantages, said Cafferty. Not least among these is security, and, hence, privacy. “It allows for control of records, preventing unauthorised access and use makes compliance with data protection regulations, including the GDPR, easier,” she said. “Practically, the GDPR means that we have implemented a separate data processing agreement in addition to our usual confidentiality agreements when processing personal data for our customers.”

It also has diagnostic and therapeutic benefits. “It results in information that is up-to-date and, therefore, that it is information that can be trusted as to its integrity. It also means the possibility of sharing patient data with other professionals in a confidential and secure manner when appropriate,” said Cafferty.

Time saving

Any move to electronic records, of course, should bring with it the benefit of time saved. Having invested in new facilities and patient management systems, it is important that doctors ensure that their staff are efficient, Cafferty said. In practice, this means that the administration and records systems have to be efficient so as to not bog staff down. “The key challenge in this area is to ensure that medically trained staff members are primarily focussed on patient facing activities,” she said. “Once a patient management software package has been installed, it can be time-consuming and onerous for surgery staff to keep it current and accurate. “Glaringly, it is simply not efficient to have medical secretaries engaging in scanning and sorting paper correspondence relating to patient records,” she said.

Datascan Document Services already works closely with many surgeries, clinics and private rooms throughout Ireland to remove this efficiency roadblock by providing an outsourced medical correspondence scanning service. Naturally, with the issue of privacy compliance at the forefront of discussion Datascan’s processes are all ISO27001 compliant. The same processes also make life easier for everyone involved. “We’ve even had feedback from clinics that the service has helped to improve staff morale greatly, as it removed the scanning headache once and for all, and has become part of the normal routine of the surgery,” she said.