EHRs and Patient Privacy: Balancing Data and Security


Photo of author
Written By Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller is an experienced healthcare writer specializing in Electronic Health Records (EHR), healthcare technology and data analytics. Her insightful articles help healthcare professionals stay abreast of emerging trends and practices in EHR and EMR.

Privacy in electronic health records (EHR) is a complex and multifaceted topic. EHR systems have the potential to transform healthcare by improving communication, involving patients in their care, and enabling population research. However, the delocalization of health records and the quick delivery of information also raise concerns about privacy.

The literature shows diverging opinions on how EHR systems should be established in light of these unresolved privacy issues. A narrative review of twenty-five articles conducted in the Library and Information Studies (LIS) field revealed several consistent themes, including the anticipated benefits of EHR, patient-doctor trust, privacy ethics & laws, EHR ownership question, and country-specific focus. The review also highlighted the potential of EHR to improve medical decision making and healthcare delivery, while acknowledging the risks and challenges associated with privacy breaches. Overall, the review calls for further research and consideration of privacy in EHR systems.

Key Takeaways:

  • EHR systems have the potential to transform healthcare by improving communication, involving patients in their care, and enabling population research.
  • Diverging opinions exist on how EHR systems should be established in light of privacy concerns.
  • Privacy ethics & laws, patient-doctor trust, EHR ownership, and country-specific focus are consistent themes in the literature.
  • EHRs have the potential to improve medical decision making and healthcare delivery but come with risks and challenges associated with privacy breaches.
  • Further research is needed to address privacy concerns and improve EHR systems.

The Anticipated Benefits of EHR Systems

The implementation of Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems in healthcare holds immense potential for transformative change. The literature consistently emphasizes the numerous benefits that can be derived from adopting EHR systems.

One key benefit is improved communication across the entire healthcare ecosystem. EHRs enable seamless information exchange between healthcare providers, allowing for efficient and accurate communication. This enhanced collaboration between healthcare professionals fosters better coordination of care, leading to improved patient outcomes.

EHRs also facilitate enhanced communication between healthcare providers and patients. Through secure patient portals, patients can access their medical records, test results, and other relevant health information. This increased transparency and access empower patients to actively participate in their own care, promoting shared decision-making and enabling a patient-centered healthcare approach.

A universal EHR system enables quick access to medical records, particularly crucial in emergency rooms where immediate access to accurate patient information can significantly impact treatment decisions. This rapid access to critical data can lead to a reduction in medical errors and ultimately save lives.

An additional benefit of EHR systems is their potential to support population research. By aggregating and anonymizing large sets of health data, EHRs offer valuable insights into trends, patterns, and outcomes of various health conditions. Population research based on EHR data can inform healthcare policies, disease prevention strategies, and resource allocation, ultimately leading to better public health outcomes.

While the anticipated benefits of EHR systems are promising, it is essential to recognize and address the associated risks and challenges. Privacy and data security are critical concerns that must be effectively managed to ensure patient trust and compliance with legal requirements. Achieving the delicate balance between leveraging the advantages of EHR systems and safeguarding patient privacy remains an ongoing focus of research and development.

Privacy Challenges and Legal Considerations in EHR Systems

Privacy concerns pose significant challenges in the implementation and utilization of electronic health record (EHR) systems. It is crucial to protect patient data from unauthorized access and ensure the privacy and integrity of this sensitive information. Patient consent and control over their health data are paramount, necessitating strict limitations on data access to authorized individuals and applications.

The importance of privacy in EHRs has been recognized by influential organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). These bodies have established comprehensive guidelines and declarations to safeguard personal data in electronic health records.

Addressing the legal and ethical questions surrounding EHR privacy is a focal point for ongoing research and development. Compliance with legislation and policy, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the 21st Century Cures Act, is a priority. This ever-evolving landscape prompts a continuous effort to strike the delicate balance between data accessibility and security in healthcare.