Electronic Health Records

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As Patients’ Records Go Digital, Theft And Hacking Problems Grow

By David Schultz, Kaiser Health News

As more doctors and hospitals go digital with medical records, the size and frequency of data breaches are alarming privacy advocates and public health officials.

Three of the ten largest health data breaches have occurred in California. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources started tracking the break-ins in 2009.

Keeping records secure is a challenge that doctors, public health officials and federal regulators are just beginning to grasp. And, as two recent incidents at Howard University Hospital show, inadequate data security can affect huge numbers of people. Continue reading

Rural California Hospitals Slow to Digitize

By Eve Harris

Fall colors in Quincy. (Somesh Kumar: Flickr)

Fall colors in Quincy. (Somesh Kumar: Flickr)

High in the Sierra in the town of Quincy, doctors at Plumas District Hospital are using iPads in the clinic. Technicians and nurses are also getting better acquainted with their new electronic health records (EHR) system. This 25-bed hospital has gone digital.

Plumas District joins a digitizing trend at least partially sparked by financial incentives in the federal health care law. Plumas District CEO Doug Lafferty was recruited just nine months ago to get the EHR up and running. In a recent interview he said his adopted community is full of “wonderful people.”

But in contrast to his own prior experience in major, urban hospitals, Lafferty said most of the Plumas District staff have never worked anywhere else. Sure, the iPads are welcome, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of implementing an electronic system of medical records, change can be painful. The culture of “consistency” leaves no doubt that he is “a change agent,” Lafferty said.

While Plumas District has been fortunate to have the capital and leadership to make this change, other California towns are not so lucky. A recent nationwide report confirmed the widely-held concern that small, nonteaching and rural hospitals are lagging behind their urban counterparts in adoption of electronic health records.

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