The United States healthcare industry is undergoing a technological revolution. As paper medical records are converted to electronic medical records, which are then stored via cloud computing, a myriad of legal questions arise. Foremost among these are concerns regarding patient privacy and the security of stored personal health information. It is evident that the storage of electronic medical records in computer clouds is a technological development that is here to stay. The challenge lies in adapting our healthcare system to the digital age in a legally enforceable, efficient, and cost-effective manner while maintaining quality care and privacy rights for patients.
There are two key components to this healthcare overhaul. First, transitioning as smoothly as possible to the inevitable nationwide e-health system; and second, determining proper responses to situations where the e-health system does not function correctly. All systems experience complications at some point, and the e-health system, while more efficacious than paper medical records in the long-term, will present new legal and policy-related dilemmas that a community reliant on paper-based medical charts will initially be unprepared to address. Ideally, hospitals and healthcare companies should develop backup plans in advance of these hurdles and create prophylactic policies that anticipate technical difficulties. The U.S. healthcare system should act offensively, rather than defensively, to challenges that will arise as we increase our reliance on technology. These strategies must be as legally sound as possible, in order to best protect patient privacy and to diminish risks for all parties. Diminishing legal risk will decrease the hesitancy of software companies and data centers to enter the arena of public health, and will therefore drive a competitive marketplace with lower costs for hospitals and insurance companies and, consequently, lower treatment costs for patients. (more…)