After news of the 125 tornadoes that touched down in the Midwest this weekend, I recalled an article published about Joplin, MO, entitled “Lost medical records complicate Joplin hospital’s tornado recovery.” This article details how tornadoes that ripped through Joplin became an eye-opener on the importance of electronic medical records (EMR).
Besides debris, medical records and x-rays were found as far away as 75 miles from the devastation. Included in paper records are patients’ most important information, such as name, social security number, date of birth and address. Fortunately, the information wasn’t lost since the hospital had back up its paper charts to an EMR just three weeks before the catastrophe. However, the paper records and all the identifying health information were still out there, and the hospital’s only recourse was to ask anyone finding these records to return them.
All healthcare providers face serious financial and legal penalties if the security of their records is breached. The United States Depart of Health and Human Services requires that medical providers protect individually identifiable health information against any reasonable anticipated threat or hazard. When a provider experiences a breach on grounds other than willful neglect, no fines are imposed.
As we continue to experience unexpected weather events and forces of nature, it behooves all providers to be prepared to safeguard their patients’ records.