In order to provide prompt and effective patient care, today’s healthcare providers must carefully balance their patients’ demand for privacy and the need for doctors and other staff members to have access to patient information. Healthcare providers must make sure that patient records are not only accurate and available when needed, but that they are kept confidential and protected against unauthorized access.
As organizations increasingly provide comprehensive healthcare, often at multiple locations with a variety of healthcare workers, they must find ways to store and share patient records while keeping them secure. In response to these needs, many healthcare organizations have adopted formal healthcare information security policies and practices to protect patients’ medical records.
Healthcare information security not only protects patients against a loss of privacy with their medical records, it also protects them against identity theft. In addition to potential adverse impacts to patients’ credit scores, medical identity theft can have far more serious consequences, including the temporary or permanent loss of insurance coverage due to fraudulent or excessive claims. This may result in large out-of-pocket expenditures or a delay in receiving care.
Identity thieves may exceed the lifetime maximum insurance benefits, leaving patients with no coverage when they need it. Unfortunately, these insurance issues aren’t usually discovered until the patient seeks medical care. Far more serious is the possibility that a patient’s medical records could become corrupted with erroneous information, which could cause misdiagnosis or mistreatment. In some cases, even after the immediate identity theft issues have been resolved, patients can face increased health insurance premiums.
Careers in healthcare information security can range from lower level positions, such as medical records or health information technicians, to information technology workers to senior management and the executive level.
Medical records technicians enter, organize, and manage health information data. They are often responsible for making sure that records are accurate. They may also monitor records access and security for paper and electronic systems. They attach classification codes to assign patient information to specific categories for insurance filing and reimbursement purposes, for medical databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and histories, including treatments and procedures.
Health information technology workers are often tasked with developing or deploying security measures for electronic records, including databases and registries. They may also monitor access to those records.
Senior level management positions are often in charge of developing, implementing, and managing healthcare security policies and protocols, as well as addressing any breaches or potential breaches in security. In addition to applicable experience, candidates for senior level positions often have advanced degrees, such as an MBA in Healthcare Management.
The healthcare management industry as a whole continues to grow and demand for positions in healthcare information security is also on the rise. As the population continues to age, the need for healthcare workers will increase as more people require tests, treatments, and procedures. This, in turn, will generate more medical records, which will result in the need for more medical records technicians to enter and manage the associated information. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical records technician positions are expected to grow by 21 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
Technical positions are also forecasted to grow, with jobs for information security analysts and other related technical positions expected to increase by 22 percent over the same time frame. Information security analysts evaluate and resolve potential security issues that might impact patient medical records.