The evolution of digital technology has integrated various sectors ranging from educational institutions, banking and health centers among others. The inclusion of these digitized technologies, especially in the health centers, has majorly aimed at transforming the traditional health record keeping strategies into digital record keeping format. Health centers in various countries have continued to initiate health resolutions and strategies that assist them in enhancing the use of new technology in health centers. These technologies have various advantages that range from their efficiency in patient’s health care monitoring to adequate health information accessibility.

However, the use of digitized technologies, such as electronic medical records, in improving the health standards has also resulted to the violation of patient’s privacy and rights. This is based on the uncontrolled potential of EMR in allowing the accessibility and circulation of patient’s health records. The write up explores and explains both supportive and opposing arguments relating to the use of electronic medical records, especially in relation to violation of patient’s privacy and rights. It also highlights the possible ways and practices that can be initiated in the use of electronic medical records to enhance patient’s privacy and rights.

According to Kopala & Mitchell (2011), the evolution of digitized technology has brought electronic based technologies to be used in various sectors, especially in the health institutions. They point out that the evolution of digitized technologies tends to gradually replace the paper-based patient’s health records with the computer-based health record systems. They argue that the efficiency and reliability of electronic technologies in the health institutions has boosted the sector’s operations by initiating effective health networking systems. This is because the technology incorporates electronic medical recording programs that not only initiate accuracy and safe health records, but also provide grounds for professional health networking.

Kopala & Mitchell (2011) point out that the global integration of the health sectors has called for either efficient or secure patient’s health records keeping processes or standardized health resolutions schemes. They note that the potentiality of enhancing multiple data from various health sources either within or outside health care system in improving patients records have been initiated by the electronic medical records. This approach has resulted into various health resolutions and implementations in various countries that are based on defined timeline. For instance, in America, the Congress enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which was initiated to enhance the full potential use of electronic medical records systems in various health sectors in the U.S by 2014 (Kopala & Mitchell, 2011).  The act was passed to improve the patient’s health care systems due to the readily accessibility of patient’s health records in any distinct area, especially in times of health emergencies.

Even though the electronic Medical records (EMRs) play an important role in enhancing the flow of patient’s health records from the patient’s EMR to other internal or external sources, they pose a lot of risks to patient’s privacy and rights (Kopala & Mitchell, 2011). Additionally, Collin & Peel (2012) note that the efficiency of electronic medical records system in allowing easy access and share of patient’s health records normally violates their rights and privacy. According to them, most of the medical professionals or practitioners normally experience difficulties in managing the accessed patient’s records, thereby exposing the patient’s health status.  By doing so, patient’s health privacy and rights are then violated.

The write up explores and explains both supporting and opposing arguments relating to the use of electronic medical records in violating patient’s privacy and rights. It also highlights the possible ways and practices that can be initiated in the use of electronic medical records to enhance patient’s privacy and rights.

Supportive Arguments

As argued by Kopala & Mitchell (2011), the use of electronic medical records enhances the sharing of patient’s health information with a third party, thereby breaching the privacy and rights of the patient. They point out that the technology does not only connect doctors to patient’s health records, but it also exposes the patient’s health status to other parties, such as the insurance companies. According to them, the principle under which the electronic medical record systems operate is to integrate the health care by giving standards ranging from effective patient’s health care monitoring services to insurance policing. The insurance companies, in ascertaining the eligibility of the patient in obtaining insurance premium, normally establish the potentiality of using EMR in accessing their health status. They note that with their EMR software and computer programs, insurance companies can easily access and circulate the patient’s health information either for approval or discussion. By doing so, Peel (2010) points out that the patient’s health information is viable to the insurance firm premises which can either encounter speculations or disposition, thereby undermining the patient’s privacy and rights.

As pointed out by Foreman (2006), personal reputation and livelihood is at risks through the sensitization of electronic medical records. He points out that electronic medical records normally entail detailed information about the patient ranging from his or her social security numbers to health disabilities.  He notes that just like the paper-based health recording, electronic medical records give the medical practitioner or various departments an upper hand in accessing and sharing such detailed information.  For instance, the U.S. Veterans Benefits Administration has constantly collected and updated the social security numbers and other personal details including personal cell phone numbers of more than 25 million military personnel. Foreman (2006) notes that since the Veteran Administration is incapable of preventing intrusion into private health information of military personnel, the National Security Agency normally easily access such information. However, this normally allows the invading of the privacy of the health status of the military personnel as their personal health records are shared and speculated within the National Security Agency departments.

According to Johnson (2011), the use of electronic medical records encourages government’s control over health information as opposed to patients and medical practitioners. She notes that such centralization of electronic medical health records that enhances government control over health information does not guarantee the patient his or her privacy. This is clearly illustrated by the fact that the access and control of health information which forms the basis of doctors to patients’ interaction through the electronic medical records does not guarantee patient’s confidentiality. She points outs that such government control over health information normally invades the patient’s privacy and rights. The case of a Canadian Gulf War officer, Sean Bruyea clearly demonstrates such violation. According to her, Sean Bruyea discovered that his mental health information had been accessed and circulated by the Canadian federal bureaucrats which impacted negatively his personal identity.

Johnson (2011) argues that the use of electronic medical records normally denies the patients` rights of accessing health information. She points out that the accessibility and circulation of patient’s health information, especially those relating to sexual health information, normally hinder patient’s knowledge on his or her health status. According to her, the automatic distribution of patients’ health records through the centralized electronic medical database normally denies the patient rightful accesses and opinion on his or her medical status. According to her, centralization of patient’s health records normally violates the principal of first hand health information accessibility by the patient, thereby violating the code of confidentiality, trust, and privacy. For instance, Sean Bruyea came to learn of his detailed mental health information two years after he discovered that his health information had been accessed and circulated by Canadian federal bureaucrats (Johnson, 2011). This did not only undermine his health information privacy, but it also hindered his rightful access to detailed health information.

According to Alonso (2006), the federal government laxity in implementing the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in enhancing electronic medical record, is the main cause of violation of patient’s privacy and rights. He points out that HIPAA Act clearly stipulates how the medical practitioners should exercise their health mandate in enhancing patient’s privacy and rights. For instance, Murray (1999) noted that HIPAA normally established the necessity of patient to acquire copies of their medical records regardless of their health conditions. He notes that in doing so, patient’s personal health information is barred from use in non-healthcare which might violate his or her privacy and rights. Therefore, its failure in implementing the HIPAA Act has enabled serious crimes to be committed through illegal access of patient’s personal details. According to him, the report that was presented by the Washington Post illustrated a massive violation on patient’s privacy. It reported 20,000 allegations of the violation of patient’s privacy. He notes that the violation of patient’s rights is also indicated by the low percentage of the privacy violation cases being prosecuted.

Foreman (2006) argues that electronic medical records do not initiate full active patients` participation towards health information. He notes that EMR is advance health care technology which requires advanced technological knowledge how to operate and, therefore, is disadvantageous to vulnerable groups who do not have such knowledge.  For instance, the use of electronic medical records forces such groups of patients like the elderly to ask for assistance from either their family members or the medical practitioners in accessing and interpreting their health records. By this, their personal health details are shared with other parties who can either speculate or develop biasness towards these vulnerable groups, thereby undermining their personal privacy and rights.

Reich (2012) argues that the electronic medical records have changed the professionalism interaction of medical practitioners into bureaucratic health information exchange. He notes that electronic medical records have become an integrated daily routine workflow system that continues to enhance the operation of doctors in improving the health care standards of patients. Apart from supporting effective medical decision making systems, EMR interconnects doctors with their subordinate staff. For instance, Reich (2012) points out that in the processes of doctors’ interconnection with their subordinates, they ensure that their juniors operate under their bureaucratic authority in health care delivery process. By doing so, the patient’s health care standards are at risks, since some of the bureaucratic decision making practices primarily undermine the privacy and rights of the patients.

As pointed out by Reich (2012), electronic medical records normally give doctors and subordinate medical practitioners the ample time of reconciling patient’s health records. Even though EMR benefits patients, especially by reducing medical errors that may arise from unnecessary duplication tests, patients’ recorded health data can be easily manipulated (Johnson, 2011).  According to Reich (2012), subordinate medical practitioner who adheres to bureaucratic authority from their senior doctors can manipulate the patient’s health records in favor of their selfish gain.  In doing so, patients can be subjected to health care practices that not only undermine their rights, but also violate their personal privacy. For instance, the impact of capitalism has resulted to corruption in the medical sector.

Opposing Argument

Those, who oppose electronic medical records as an act of violating patient’s privacy and rights, base their argument on impediment factors which hinder the effectiveness of the system. As argued by Peel (2012), EMR presents an effective way of securely sharing health information with patients or other parties for so long as the resistance to its rightful implementation is addressed. According to Greiver, Barnsley & Moineddin (2011), the complexity and inflexibility that is associated with EMR has undermined the patient’s participation in acquiring detailed medical information. They note that the advanced technological software and programming that are associated with EMR is normally incompatible with the technological knowledge of most patients. As a result, such patients normally establish the invalidity of the EMR in enhancing their health standards and, hence, they do not participate in such advance health system. They point out that this makes such patients’ health information be either accessed or manipulated, thereby violating their privacy and rights.

On the other hand, Greiver, Barnsley & Moineddin (2011) note that lack of adequate technological knowledge by physicians of the operation of EMR can result to inappropriate health data entry or disposal. According to the conducted research, they indicated that EMR use was mostly effective among young physicians who had advance technological knowledge as opposed to their elder counterparts. This technological impairment could result into patient’s health record being manipulated and circulated, since most of the junior physicians operated under their older seniors who could influence them bureaucratically. For instance, most of the Toronto old doctors found out that using EMR for patient’s health care data entry was time consuming and, thus, irritating (Greiver, Barnsley & Moineddin, 2011). Therefore, these doctors started delineating their work to their juniors, thereby sharing the patient’s information with them.

Moreover, Greiver, Barnsley & Moineddin (2011) argue that the inability to meet the high cost associated with EMR is the reason why the systems continue to fully address the privacy and rights of patients. According to Kopala & Mitchell (2011), the full implementation of effective EMR systems costs up to tens of millions dollars even for small clinical centers that need to develop, implement, and maintain such systems (Kopala & Mitchell, 2011). As a result, health institutions normally deploy underdeveloped and structured EMR systems that do not allow the health practitioners to enhance effectively patients’ privacy and rights.

Ways of Enhancing Effective Use of EMR

According to McCarthy & Eastman (2010), EMR can be effectively enhanced to promote the patients’ privacy and rights, especially if both the patient and health representative care, custody, and control over patient’s health records and information. They note that patients, especially the adult ones, should take it upon themselves to make decisions about their health records, as portrayed by EMR which includes medial information sharing. They point out that patients should not even allow their legal representative to take control over their health information. The invasion of patient’ privacy and rights due to their respective legal representative intrusion into their health care can be illustrated by an incident occurred  in Illinois on July 1st, 2011 (Kopala & Mitchell, 2011). They note that this incident involved a legal representative in Illinois who used the patient’s legal power in accessing the vulnerable patient`s medical information without his concern.

On the other hand, Smith (2006) points out the need for health centers to train and employ ethically qualified medical practitioners who are able to manage and secure massive medical information of various patients. He notes that during the EMR training, physicians should be sensitizing on the importance and repercussions of violating patient’s privacy and rights. For instance, it should be noted that it is illegal to access and speculate on patient’s health records without his or her approval.

Moreover, Smith (2006) notes the federal government should provide adequate funds for development, implementation, and effective maintenance of EMR in enhancing patient’s privacy. He points out that the implementation should be based on the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This would give each stakeholder the opportunity to actively participate in the EMR system upgrade in not only enhancing health standards, but also in promoting patient’s privacy and rights.

Conclusion

The write up has established that electronic medical records can only result to effective health care services if patient’s privacy and rights are adhered to. It has pointed out that the new digitized health technology presents health integration standards which are illegally manipulated and accessed, thereby hindering its effectiveness in addressing patient’s privacy and rights. The paper has also pointed to the need to incorporate effective and standardized medical practices among the concerned parties. This would allow the careful management of the patient’s health information. It has also noted the need for the government to fund the EMR training, so as to sensitize people on its important role in enhancing patient’s privacy and rights.

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