HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) phobia is a rarely discussed term. But describing such a phobia is considered important to the digital health industry, since it addresses several reasons why not all healthcare organizations find success in the implementation of EHR. In this article, Ruth Peñafiel from Medical Practice Automation Associates describes some practical ways to tackle HIPAA phobia in order to ensure that the use of EHR by healthcare providers will be maximized to provide better healthcare to patients.

Let me start this article with this fact:

Nurses resistance of EHR adoption is common in health organizations, especially when most staff members are in their 40s to 60s. And because the dilemma proves to be so common, EHR resistance is often attributed to a generation gap without us realizing that perhaps another huge factor is at play – HIPAA phobia, or fear of possibly violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

A rarely discussed term, HIPAA phobia, according to the Department of Behavioral Health and Development Services in Virginia (and as the name suggests), is the fear of HIPAA regulations. Although perhaps not officially classifiable as a phobia, the fear of HIPAA violation is real and has somehow become one of the biggest hindrances to EHR adoption.

This topic is very relevant and important to the digital health industry since it addresses several problems as to why healthcare organizations find success in the implementation of EHR – or why not. Fears are a great deterrent to providing both effective patient healthcare and implementing the good use of EHR. What’s more, not all organizations are aware of why such fears arise. These posts tackle very practical ways how one can relieve – if not totally eliminate – the phobia. I believe that the industry must now find the root of the fear before appropriate solutions can be found to resolve the problem.

The Fear Is Justified

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a nurse can be considered a HIPAA-covered entity when he or she transmits patient information electronically. Trouble can arise when when a nurse realizes the gravity and consequences of HIPAA violations.

One can argue that the cases of nurses getting prosecuted are rare, and that righteous practice can easily prevent the problem. With or without the privacy rules, ethical procedures should be maintained by all healthcare practitioners.

However, the fact remains that not all nurses are properly briefed on HIPAA-compliant EHR practices, nor do they undergo EHR training; hence, confusion and uncertainty are inevitable. It appears that pre-implementation training has become a mere prerogative of administrators rather than a legal obligation.

Thus, the question begs to be asked: Where does the fear come from? Is it the administration’s fault, or the vendor’s? The only clear answer is that the source of the fear is highly circumstantial.

Eliminating the Fear Can Be a Key to EHR Success

Patient-centricity is a buzzword in modern healthcare. It emphasizes the fact that the primary goal of healthcare is to achieve good patient outcomes. But patient-centricity should not mean that health practitioners themselves should be left out of the equation. After all, how can good patient outcomes possibly be achieved if healthcare providers themselves are not taken care of?

On the topic of EHR adoption, very few studies have been published about nursing practice and perception vis-à-vis the rules and regulations that cover electronic health records. In fact, it is highly possible that this discussion is first among the very limited discourse on how nurses feel threatened, and therefore develop EHR apprehension.

Part II of this article can be found here.

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