What Is the HITECH Act, and What Does It Mean for You?

by | Sep 3, 2013 | Dental

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The HITECH Act is the acronym for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act that is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The goal of the HITECH Act is to create an American network of electronic health records. Medical professionals, including dentists, are eligible to receive financial incentives for their contributions and participation in the creation of the HITECH Act network.

What is Included in an Electronic Health Record?

Under the HITECH Act, an electronic health record is a health care record in digital form. The idea is that, since it is in digital format, it could easily be shared between care providers so that patient information could be easily shared to improve treatment. An electronic health record often includes data about a patient’s age, weight, height, medical history, immunization status, as well as what medications they take or are allergic to. In addition, the file can contain test results and radiology images.

What Are the Advantages of Electronic Health Records under the HITECH Act?

Electronic health records will reduce wait times or difficulties in transferring the hardcopy patient files from location to location. There will be fewer medical errors made due to illegible handwriting on the part of harried nurses and doctors. In addition, the HITECH Act is meant to ensure that healthcare practitioners will all be using standardized forms to input data as well as standardized abbreviations and terminology. This will ensure better communication between healthcare practitioners about a patient’s overall health and treatment options.

Electronic health records are also extremely useful in emergency situations because they can be accessed almost instantaneously. So, for example, ambulance crews and paramedics will be better equipped to make decisions regarding patient care en route to the hospital. This will prevent the use of medications or treatments that might counteract with the prescription medication an individual is using at the time of an accident.

What Are Some of the Risks of Using Electronic Health Records?

The major risk of the increasing use of electronic health records over hardcopy patient files is the risk that these files can be accessed by unauthorized users. The best defense that medical and dental offices have against this type of breach of information is to increase their spending on appropriate security measures. The HITECH Act includes information about how offices must secure their electronic medical records.

In addition to hardware, such as video security cameras, many medical and dental practitioners are using backup systems, firewalls, and anti-spyware software to safeguard their patients’ data. It is best to hire an IT expert to review your office and its practices to determine where potential security risks lie and how to minimize them. The positive outcomes of the HITECH Act are only beneficial if the healthcare practitioners involved take great care of the patient information that they are responsible for.