Document Storage for Medical Practices and Other Healthcare Institutions

Document Storage for Medical Practices and Other Healthcare Institutions

The medical record is a powerful instrument that gives the treating physician the ability to track the medical history of the patient and identify patterns and other problems which may assist in determining the course of treatment.

doctor with medical recordThe major aim of the medical record is to improve the quality of health care administered to a patient. It is therefore a living document which details the chronological story of patients and facilitates each encounter or meeting with the health professionals that are involved in their care.

Document management for a medical practice is therefore very important. In fact, it could be the difference between life and death for some patients. The various documents which are usually handled in a healthcare facility include patient records, laboratory reports, hospital records, research reports, MRIs and CT scans, X-Rays and more. Such documents need to be kept in a safe and secure site so as to ensure physical and logical integrity as well as confidentiality, which is an absolute necessity.

Storage

Therefore, physicians, working with record managers, must ensure that the appropriate record management protocols which regulate access to documents are put in place. Access should be contingent on role, responsibilities and authority of the users. At the very least, these protocols should ensure that medical records, whether in paper or electronic form, are easily and readily available and producible when required.

Clear steps must be taken to protect all documents from theft, misplacement/loss, unauthorized disclosure, copying, alteration and disposal. This requirement should apply on all the information stored on site, regardless of whether it is in the control of the physician or not. What is reasonable in terms of the record management protocols largely depends on the risks and dangers to which the data is exposed, the sensitivity off the information and to what extent that information can be linked or associated with an individual.

Physicians and record managers are encouraged to stay abreast of the latest developments in industry standards as well as government regulations to ensure they are fully compliant.

Security

It is inevitable that sharing of medical information among established physicians and healthcare organizations will have to take place at one point or another. Data sharing agreements and procedures must therefore be adequately outlined in the records management policy. This is of great importance for doctors and medical practitioners who share records with other facilities or those that permit multiple health workers to make entries into a given record. It is the responsibility of the physicians to be fully aware of people within this chain who can access such records.

Those that have accessibility rights much be bound by strong confidentiality agreements. When it comes to electronic systems, a functional audit trail must be in place to record anyone who has accessed a given document and what modifications, entries or edits have been made over time.

Encryption mechanisms must be put in place for Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). Strong encryption is especially important if information has to be shared over insecure networks and various devices. If information has to be communicated via mails, email encryption must be available.

Maintaining integrity of information

All medical records and data has to be stored in restricted access areas such as locked filing cabinets which cannot be burglarized, tampered with or damaged by fire. This is for the purpose of protecting information from damage and loss of integrity. Some files contain an almost lifelong account of a patient’s medical story. Misplacement or damage would be a big, big loss.

Electronic records need to be backed up regularly to ensure redundancy. The backup copies should be stored in a separate location from where the parent data is stored. One must also remember that medical information is very private, sensitive and confidential. All the necessary measures must be taken to ensure it stays that way.

Document Destruction

Every company or organization has information that needs to be securely destroyed. Document destruction is the systematic process of properly destroying and disposing confidential information to prevent security breaches. Customer lists, purchasing records, confidential client data, credit card data, payroll records and sales receipts are just some of the important information that needs to be kept secure. The law makes it very clear that customers and empDocument shredding destructionloyees have a right to have their information protected.

Implementing secure procedures and protocols to protect information is not only a company’s responsibility but also a legal obligation. If sensitive information ends up in a dumping site, it legally becomes fair game to any person who finds it.

Document destruction is especially critical in the face of increasing security threats globally. Identity theft is now a multibillion industry that funds organized crime, authorities say. Criminals have become very savvy and sophisticated, using specialized equipment and advanced methods to create fake identities. A piece or two of your personal information from your dumpster is all that is needed to steal your identity.

Here are the important aspects of document destruction:

Privacy concerns: Protecting your personal information as well as that of your employees and clients is extremely important. There are laid down procedures and protocols on how this can be done, and document destruction is a very apt method of doing it. Any paper that has names, contact information, financial details, medical history and legal documentation should be secured. These guidelines are not just for companies, but also for learning institutions, examiners and other organizations that keep internal and external data. Once somebody’s information comes to you, it becomes your responsibility to ensure it is protected.

Business and corporate concerns: All documents pertaining to company transactions are confidential. These transactions could be between a company and another, a company and a supplier, a company and a buyer and/or a company and the customers. For the security of both parties, all documents containing important information must be properly destroyed before being discarded. Security breaches can cause serious trouble for a company. They erode public trust and confidence meaning that profits can be affected. Add the heavy legal fines and you may just never recover.

Environmental concerns: Document destruction does not only protect individuals; it also helps to conserve the environment. Lessen the degradation caused by dumping by ensuring that your documents are shredded and recycled. Get a company that can guarantee total shredding before sending the waste to a recycling company or a paper mill.

What to look for in a document destruction company

Ensure that the company specializes in security shredding, whose sole aim is to protect all important documents and materials. Conduct some due diligence to see how they shred them, and whether they do it onsite or offsite. The company must provide a certificate that everything entrusted to them has been fully destroyed before being disposed.

Such firms are required by law to take all the reasonable and necessary steps to ensure complete destruction so that privacy is protected. At the end of the day, all organizations must take proactive measures so as to avoid risk.

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