04 Oct, 2017

Do Doctors Share Electronic Health Record Passwords?


Doctors and patients share a unique relationship. Patients rely on doctors for help and depend on them for privacy, care, and positive interaction with each visit.

The patient and doctor relationship is so important and special, that it requires a set of guidelines and rules, such as HIPAA, that doctors are required to follow. These rules help keep order among both parties, and give patients a sense of comfort while disclosing personal information.

Choosing a doctor is nothing short of a completely personal choice. More thought goes into this process than shopping for anything else. Patients make up their decisions based on trust, and comfort levels, like empathy.

As technology continues to advance in the healthcare sector, there have been many concerns regarding patient privacy. For example, as electronics come into play, how can one be sure their information is completely secured and does not end up in the hands of the wrong person?

Electronics In Healthcare

Electronic health records are one example of a technological advance that has taken off in the healthcare industry. More than 80% of doctors use EHR.

“More than eight in 10 doctors across the country, or 83 percent, have adopted electronic healthcare record systems, according to a new report from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.” Healthcare IT News reports. 

Since the use of EHR is increasing so much, a team of researchers sought to uncover if patients are really put at risk while having information on those devices.

By conducting a survey, the researchers used a four-questions Google-Forms based survey between 2014-2015, surveying 300 physicians. The goal of the survey was to reveal if the physicians share EHR access credentails. It was published on Facebook and healthcare workers gained access to it through email as well.

Passwords Are Being Shared

The survey reported that out of the respondents, 73.6% of them have received a password for an EHR from another physician.

“Of all the respondents, 73.6% reported having received the password of another staff member. Just 171 respondents reported how often they obtained someone else’s password, with an average being 4.75 times. All of the residents participating in the study and 57.5% of the nurses admitted using another staff member’s password.” Healthcare Dive reports. 

So, does this cause harm or good? Well, according to the authors, it is causing patients more harm. But, why, exactly?

Sharing EHR violates security violations that physicians are required to follow, as well as betray the patient’s trust. Without having the patients permission to share such confidential information goes against rules and regulations that doctors are expected to follow.

“Although EHRs allow providers to use information more effectively to improve the quality and efficiency of your care, they do not change the obligations providers have to keep your protected health information private and secure.” Health IT Buzz reports. 

Not only does it put the patient at risk, it causes a concern for cybersecurity. As passwords start to surface, they could end up in the wrong hands, making the EHR vulnerable to risk. This has become more common in the healthcare sector over the years.

In fact, according to HealthcareDive, 89% of healthcare organizations have encountered a data breach in the past two years. This has cost the industry $6.2 billion dollars.

The Solution

The study showed that physicians are sharing password information to help junior staff members gain access, in order to be able to provide care easily.

With that being the case, the researchers suggested supporting a system that could be placed in the EHR that alerts senior authority if the EHR is in use. That way, there will be a clear understanding about who is using what, and when.

Doctors can start being more aware of the risk that password sharing can cause patients and how cybersecurity plays a large role in the electronics that are used daily.

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