Patient Confidentiality: How Cloud-Based Technologies Make It Better

Patient talking to a doctor through video call

In behavioral health, well-managed practices concerning patient confidentiality and record keeping are essential not only to uphold the strict standards set forth by government regulations but also for forming therapeutic patient relationships.

For patients receiving behavioral health, human services, and mental health assistance, it’s crucial to discuss sensitive thoughts and issues without worrying that their confidences might be shared with others in ways that could damage their reputation or upset others. After all, a high level of trust and privacy must be respected in order for therapy to succeed.

But having strong ethical practices surrounding patient confidentiality is only part of a successful strategy. As covered entities, behavioral health care and human services professionals also have a legal obligation to understand state laws and federal laws regarding patients' rights. 

Protecting their patient's health information from misuse — such as a breach of confidentiality or improperly accessing, storing, and sharing medical records — should be a priority for all health care professionals. What’s more, using the right EHR technology can enable health care systems to provide high-quality patient care that keeps patient confidentiality at the forefront.

Creating a Culture of Patient Confidentiality

If the entire culture of an organization emphasizes patient confidentiality and the protection of patient information, it’s easier to implement privacy and security measures that are successful. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology lists three tips to keep patient confidentiality top of mind with your workforce: 

  • Consistently remind your team that safeguarding the health information of patients is a top priority
  • Direct the efforts of your employees to comply with, implement, and enforce your privacy and security policies in all work settings
  • Remind employees of the importance of patient information security to patient satisfaction as well as to the success of your organization

It isn't enough to check things off of a list in order to guarantee that patient information remains secure. Establishing a culture of patient data privacy and complying with all regulatory guidance is necessary for a health care business to effectively shield protected health information (PHI) from potential risks.

Patient Confidentiality Rules and Regulations

Technology in behavioral care enables a high quality of care in many ways. For example, telehealth and tools within modern patient engagement platforms can extend the continuum of care, workflow automations improve organizational efficiencies and lower costs, and EHR systems aid in promoting patient safety, prioritize the patient experience, and even improve outcomes — just to name a few. 

However, a range of potential data security issues can arise if you don’t make an effort to secure both the methods you use to interact with patients — like email and telehealth via videoconferencing or telephone — and the documents or patient records like therapy notes. 

You may be familiar with terms like “HIPAA privacy” but there are several other laws regarding patient privacy, data security, and patient confidentiality that behavioral health care workers, medical practices, and teams will need to comprehend. 

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA was formed out of the growing concerns in public health about keeping health care information private, the need to consolidate non-standard health care data and confidential information and transaction formats. It also addressed the general consensus to streamline health care operations and reduce the cost of providing health care services.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule governs the use and disclosure of patients' protected health information by organizations subject to HIPAA regulation. The Privacy Rule also includes your responsibilities for helping patients understand and control how their personal health information is used. 

One of the primary objectives of the Privacy Rule is to ensure that the sensitive information of individuals is appropriately protected while still allowing the flow of health information that is required to provide and promote high-quality health care and to safeguard the health and well-being of the general public. The Privacy Rule allows for vital uses of information to be carried out while also respecting the privacy of patients and those seeking treatment.

Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA's goals ensure the confidentiality of student educational records. This impacts some areas of behavioral health, like school counseling. The legislation gives parents the right to see the education records of their children, the right to request that the documents be corrected, and the right to exert some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information that may be included in the education records of their children. The rights conferred by FERPA on a student's parents remain in effect until the student reaches the age of majority (18 years old) or enrolls in an institution of higher education (at any age).

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)

COPPA deals with the collection, use, and sharing of personally identifiable information about children that is obtained from children directly via the use of websites or other online services. The law states that certain mandatory components must be included in a website operator's privacy policy. This includes when and how to ask a parent or guardian for their permission and the duties a website operator has to safeguard the privacy and safety of children when they are using the internet. If you communicate with children on your website or via any other electronic method, you will want to follow COPPA guidelines to avoid running afoul of many current patient confidentiality laws. 

Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) 

As part of its effort to address privacy and security concerns related to the secure and electronic transmission of health information, the HITECH Act strengthens the enforcement and breach safeguards of HIPAA regulations. By imposing stricter civil and criminal penalties for HIPAA violations, covered entities are required to implement risk management procedures that include administrative, technical, and physical safeguards.

Ensuring the Security of Electronic Health Record Systems

Patient confidentiality: man recording a video of himself while talking

Data breaches and ransomware attacks have been occurring with more frequency in health care industries. According to a recent IBM report on data breaches, since 2020, the cost of a security breach in the healthcare business has increased by 42%. Health care has the highest average data breach cost of any sector for the 12th year in a row.

The health care industry has less experience protecting health information from hackers than from misuse in general. When using technology like EHR systems, you have to take extra precautions to protect patient data and meet the standards for HIPAA compliance. Furthermore, if you use a remote workforce, you’ll face a unique set of security challenges. 

The application of cloud computing comes with the benefit of being able to access hosted services from different locations by any number of users. Cloud-based EHR systems also offer quicker, more robust, and more desirable access to medical information; fewer medical regulations; and enhanced health care quality.

Moving Health Care Data to the Cloud

Concerns over cyber attacks by outsiders are rising in just about every industry sector and government, with some experts warning that hackers could do the most damage in legacy computer-based systems that use on-premise data storage instead of cloud-based systems. 

One of the ways ContinuumCloud protects patient confidentiality is by making sure that data is safe in cloud-based servers. Not only do you never have to incur the expense of buying and maintaining a computer server for your organization, but you also never have to worry about installing and maintaining secure software. 

ContinuumCloud doesn’t just offer a comprehensive EHR solution that is entirely cloud-based — there’s also a secure patient engagement platform. Patient confidentiality is built into this platform with privacy features like HIPAA-compliant communication and end-to-end data encryption. 

Meet Patient Confidentiality, Privacy, and Security Goals With ContinuumCloud

Patient confidentiality: employees having a meeting

When it comes to issues of patient confidentiality, privacy, and security, being aware of ethical conduct is no longer sufficient for health care providers in today's world. You are required to understand and adhere to the many government regulations and you need to be familiar with the rules and best practices in the event that a data breach takes place.

ContinuumCloud’s EHR and patient engagement platforms are cloud-based, so you don't have to purchase, install, maintain, or secure any equipment. To learn more about how our solutions can help you prioritize security, privacy, and patient confidentiality, connect with us today.

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