HIPAA and Dental Practice Cloud Computing

HIPAA and Dental Practice Cloud ComputingDental Practice cloud computing is here to stay and research and technology analysis company, Forrester, predicts the cloud market will reach about $55 billion by 2014.

The term cloud computing refers to the use of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store and process data, rather than a local hard drive, or central office network.

The appeal is the ability to access data from any location from any computer, rather than being limited to one specific location and computer.

As dentists and their dental practices continue to embrace this latest technological trend, HIPAA privacy and security rules will soon be modified to address cloud computing to ensure that dental patient data is safeguarded.

GovInfoSecurity.com is reporting that Joy Pritts, chief privacy officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, a unit of the Department of Health and Human Services, recently discussed HIPAA and cloud computing at a panel discussion hosted by Patient Privacy Rights.

Pritts acknowledged that the movement of health information to the cloud is inevitable.

The shift to cloud computing “reminds me of the mobile area, where technology and practices are ahead of policy,” Pritts said. The impending new HIPAA modifications will help ensure that cloud vendors take adequate steps to protect dental patient data.

HIPAA rules do not prevent dental practice management companies, dental practices and the medical community at large from moving to cloud computing as long as they comply with current HIPAA law.

According to Government Health IT in a letter to the HHS Office for Civil Rights, Patient Privacy Rights founder and chair Deborah Peel, MD, urged the Department of Health and Human Services to create cloud-computing guidelines around the issues of secure infrastructure, security standards and business associate agreements.

“Issuing guidance to strengthen and clarify cloud-based protections for data security and privacy will help assure patients (that) sensitive health data they share with their physicians and other health care professionals will be protected,” Peel said.

“Cloud-computing is proving to be valuable,” Peel said, but the nation’s transition to electronic health records will be slowed “if patients do not have assurances that their personal medical information will always have comprehensive and meaningful security and privacy protections.” (Source: Government Health IT)

Is your dental practice utilizing cloud computing?  What are your thoughts?

For more on this story see: Cloud Computing: HIPAA’s Role

Dentist Fights for Patient Privacy Rights

Hands Off My Patient Files!

A Canadian dentist has decided it’s time to take a stand to protect his patients — from the dental board!

As part of its regular dental practice inspections, the Quebec Order of Dentists sometimes takes original patient files, keeping them for as long as four months before returning them to the dental office. (That’s if they’re returned on time, of course.)

Dr. Christopher Herten-Graven has refused to turn over patient files, arguing that doing so could violate his patients’ privacy. Moreover, the doctor asks, what if a file is gone but the patient needs treatment? His lawyer acknowledges that dentists are required to provide access to charts and files, books and registers, but adds, “There’s nothing in the professional code that says he or she has to surrender original documents.”

It’s a balancing act between regulating medical professionals and respecting the privacy of patient records. “The right to regulate the profession overrides the patients’ right to privacy in the same way that the police, if they get a search warrant, overrule privacy rights,” said David Fraser, a Toronto lawyer who focuses on privacy concerns. “But the organization should not be demanding documents just for the sake of demanding documents.”

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