Nurse Zone: Tech Tools Put Privacy in Place

By Christina Orlovsky

As health care becomes even more computerized and medical information becomes increasingly portable, protecting patient privacy continues to be a top priority for health care professionals. But the rise of electronic medical records also brings with it a greater risk of privacy breaches born from easier access. The result: the integration of new technologies to prevent unauthorized access to patient information.
A legal need for privacy protection  
According to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), a variety of safeguards may be put in place in electronic medical records to keep a patient’s private records safe from hacking and help organizations abide by the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Security Rule. Such technological insurance policies include access controls like PINs (personal identification numbers) and passwords for authorized users and encryption software that only allows certain individuals with decryption keys to access information.  However, as any health care provider knows, the penalties for a HIPAA violation warrant even greater protection than a password can provide. With that idea in mind, here are two technology companies that have devised cutting-edge safeguards to ensure privacy and safety.
Patient privacy in the palm of their hands 
More than 160 hospitals and thousands of health care facilities across the nation are literally putting privacy in the palms of their patients’ hands with the help of PatientSecure, a biometric identification system that matches a patient’s unique palm vein mapping system to their electronic medical record. Launched in 2007 as a way of making sure the right care was provided to the right patient--think about how many John Smiths receive care at any given large hospital system--and to prevent medical identification theft, insurance fraud and duplicate electronic medical records, the PatientSecure device takes an infrared photo of a patient’s palm, and upon registration saves that encrypted data with the patient’s medical file for future visits.  The system reduces risk of identification theft that may occur when the patient provides personal information aloud during check-in, ensures that the health care provider is accessing only the information pertaining to the current patient, reduces unauthorized access to other patient records, and ensures that the right John Smith is checking in for his appointment.
Click-free access to authorized information 
Imagine logging into a computer without entering a password. If it sounds like a completely non-secure system, imagine it again--this time with the security of the OneSign Single Sign-on Authentication System developed by Imprivata, which provides data securing services for more than 2 million patients in 900 hospitals across 20 countries. Designed to integrate with a variety of electronic medical record systems, Imprivata replaces manual entry of usernames and passwords with “No Click Access” through the tap of an authorized badge or the swipe of an authorized fingerprint, ensuring that only the providers with a professional need to access a patient’s information are able to access that information quickly, easily and securely.  This “single authentication management solution” allows organizations to select from a variety of authentication options, including fingerprint biometrics, proximity cards, smart cards, one-time passwords, USB tokens and phone-based authentication through phone calls or text messages, allowing for both in-person and remote access to secure, authorized information--saving time, protecting privacy and providing compliance peace of mind.