Compliance with HIPAA rules is not an issue to be taken lightly by any professional health organization. Electronic patient health information, in particular, is delicate and has been found to encounter the most attempts of data breach. What this means is that the security measures that involve electronic systems and integrated patient management systems specifically ought to be stringent and proof of foreign infiltration.
What are integrated patient management systems?
From the word ‘integration,' an integrated management system combines disparate systems in a setup to create one streamlined environment. This allows for the flow of information from one system to another seamlessly. An integrated patient management software, therefore, is used in hospitals to increase productivity and enhance communication between the different working areas of the hospital. Some of the areas include:
- Patient scheduling and online appointments-The patient can access the hospital online portal and register then make an appointment with a doctor. This saves on time as unnecessary queues are eliminated.
- Patient Record Maintenance- Here, the system would store records of both in-patients and out-patients. It should store all information concerning the patient from admission to discharge. This includes diagnosis details, and if in-patient the bed/cabin/ward numbers.
- Roster management-The system would involve keeping track of employee attendance, especially the permanent employees -doctors, nurses, lab specialists
- Billing information-Part of the integrated PMS is a system that takes record of the expenses by the hospital, the monies paid daily in counter collection as well as deposit handling. Others factors taken care of include cancellations and refunds.
- Inventory Management-Medical equipment maintenance lies under this section. The inventory system demonstrates the hospital’s expenditure on disposables such as drugs as well as undisposables e.g. machines. It should reflect stock availability at any given time.
- Financial System-Here, the financial records of the hospital, are entered and comprehensive reports generated. The payroll functionality falls under this section.
Other clinical areas of a hospital that must be integrated with the rest of the system include OT management (Operational Theatre) and specialized treatment such as ICU and NICU.
The first and most important advantage of deploying a software-based information system for any hospital or health plan is the reduction of patient workload. With an active network and an efficient, user-friendly database, the employees are much more effective in their work. There is reduced labor as well which saves the administration a substantial amount of money.
An integrated patient management system creates a paperless working environment that is cost-effective and less prone to loss of vital patient information as in the case with manual systems. Medication safety is also enhanced as there are records to show the history of the patient. Even in the case of handovers, say from one doctor to the other the diagnosis details are readily available.
Lastly, if an integrated system is well designed so that the clinical and administrative angles are smoothly connected, the workflow process is very much simplified. The accounting information can be mapped to the payment details of the patients as well as the inventory. Through the website, there is enhanced communication between patient and doctor as well as within the organization.
Migration from a manual system to a digital platform can be daunting, more so for the older generation employees. As much as it is adaptable, the world of cybercrime still exists.As shown in a study by the Annual benchmark study on privacy and security, nearly 90% of health organizations suffer data breaches. As a result of this, HIPAA regulatory bodies and the Office of Civil Rights have tightened their belts when it comes to lawsuits and criminal charges. Before a hospital deploys an integrated PMS, it must, therefore, check that all loopholes are covered. Employees should be trained on the IT security measures and HIPAA risk assessment analyses done from time to time.
Another challenge that hospitals are likely to face is the cost of implementation and maintenance of these systems. There are many software-based products available in the market, but it is the responsibility of the client to carry out a thorough survey before investing in one. The vendor should be flexible and reliable to troubleshoot and solve problems concerning the system whenever they arise.
How to make Integrated PMS compliant
As stated over and over again, the privacy of Electronic Health Records is key over everything. At the same time, medical information should be accessible to those who need it at any given time. These include the patients themselves, health care providers and health plans and insurers among others. Striking a balance between sharing of information and protecting it against malicious attack is walking a thin line. With the right framework, however, it is achievable.
To protect integrated patient management systems, the covered entities, business associates, and sub-associates must play by the HIPAA Security rule concerning epHI. Some of the points to take home from the act are the safeguards which can be defined in summary as below:
Physical safeguards-There should be limited access to facilities that house equipment for epHI. No unauthorized access should be allowed to stations and electronic media. Information systems must also be protected from natural and environmental hazards
Technical safeguards-This is the process of ensuring the safety of ePHI data from the point of collection all through processing, retention and future use. Some of the procedures that can be actively implemented in this regard include automatic logoff feature, use of unique user IDs, encryption, decryption and offsite backup of data.
Administrative safeguards-These refer to the action steps, policies, and procedures that the client comes up with regarding the development, implementation, and maintenance of IT systems.
Web-based integrated systems have proved to increase workflow efficiency in the clinical, administrative and financial running of health centers.
The purpose of implementing information technology in a hospital setup is to create an ecosystem of well-coordinated subsystems that are both result-oriented and customer-friendly. If these systems are fully HIPAA compliant, the narrative can only get better.