Should Records and Information Managers Be Involved In Medical Records Discussions?

I am taking the opportunity to post two key questions to those engaged in the Records and Information Management profession.  Should all of us be involved in the discussion as it relates to what’s happening in the arena of medical records?  Should ARMA take a stand as it relates to protecting medical records from inadvertent disclosure or malicious “medical indentity theft”?  My position as one who is heavily involved with ARMA and who has been a “victim” of financial identity theft is a definite yes!

 My reasons focus on the potential disaster that can befall a victim of medical identity theft.  We have witnessed a deluge of recent disclosures relating to paper-based and electronic medical records losses and thefts.  What some of us may not realize is what that can mean for us as individuals, and what it means for others whose medical records are used inappropriately or illegally by others.  Members of the American Medical Records Association are involved, why not ARMA members and ARMA as an Association as well?

What are the potential results?  The results can affect us and others by compromising our financial identity – where medical identity thieves essentially hijack our information to obtain controlled substances – drugs, and can even lead to the inclusion of innacurate information within our own medical profiles.  Let’s say, for example, that someone with a different blood type hijacks your medical record.  What happens when a hospital relies on that incorrect information to provide you with a blood transfusion? What happens when that incorrect information leads medical professionals to treat you with a medication to which you are allergic?  Disaster can certainly ensue, and the risks include the potential for death as the result of treatments based on that false information.

As Amy Buttrell noted on the bankrate.com web site, “Financial identity theft can wound your wallet, but medical identity theft can kill you.” 

 Beyond the impact on each of us, medical records theft often allows the thieves to bilk our insurers, our government sponsored health care plans like Medicare out of millions and potentially billions of dollars.  Fraud in the health care area only serves to increase our costs and to increase our taxes as insurers and government agencies pay for services and for prescriptions that are not needed or used.

 What are your thoughts about the stake that Records and Information Management professionals have in protecting our medical records identities?  I look forward to your comments!

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5 Responses to “Should Records and Information Managers Be Involved In Medical Records Discussions?”

  1. Peterk says:

    ARMA International would be remiss in their duties if they didn’t get involved. ARMA members are currently tackling and solving e-records problems that are only now just being discussed with regards to medical records. Issues involving privacy, security, access, system integration and compatibility.

    The overall desire to make medical records available electronically is wonderful, but I firmly believe that no one calling for the move has really investigated the costs and problems associated with this move.

    so this is one vote for ARMA getting involved

  2. Wilma Ariza says:

    I believe that more needs to be done in all areas to protect the general public and the health care consumer against identity theft. I have personally been victimized by identity theft in several areas of my life and have spent the greater part of the past 5 years unraveling never ending issues stemming from my identity theft and related fraud crimes. Professionally speaking I have been employed by hospitals, doctors, claim processing agents and attorneys. It is actually criminal, in my opinion, how knowingly and/or inadvertently, medical care personnel and institutions leave us vulnerable to id theft and immense financial losses as well as potentially life threatening medical care mistakes in the case of identity theft for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining medical care. More must be done and the issue must be addressed at the federal level and state levels in a collaborative uniform fashion.

  3. Judy Tyler, CRM says:

    This is a sticky area, in my opinion. I believe ARMA should communicate/partner with AHIMA and HIMSS on the issue of electronic records. I work in a hospital, and from my experience with my facility, AHIMA and HIMSS is where our staff goes for education in this arena.

  4. I agree that ARMA should be participating in the dialogue and agree with Judy that relationship with AHIMA and HIMSS is important.

    I caution, however, that so much about the US consideration of how to achieve agreed objectives in provision of health care is wrapped up in very US-specific stuff, much of it not health care oriented at all. I wonder whether a position that ARMA might adopt would distance it from the reality of the rest of the world. Virtually everywhere, the matter is seen through very different perspective and I urge very careful appreciation of how the underlying philosophy of for-profit health insurance may affect aspects of records management in comparison to an underlying philosophy of health care. There may not be a different at the granular level (but then, are people looking at that level or going for the expedience of big buckets which may indeed aggregate along different lines).

    I do not have easy answers or specific guidance to offer but am concerned that ARMA remember and fully consider its position on topics in light of its international membership.

    IRM Strategies’ partners do have direct career experience in multiple aspects of the health system (assessment of readiness for transition to e-care at a top grossing Thai hospital (60 billion US); Canadian government policy development and change leadership; hospital management, clinical practice, etc. Give a shout, Doug, if a brief chat is ever helpful.

  5. Doug, I regret that I have not engaged before! In any case, I agree with Peter that ARMA International needs to play a far greater role in the popular understanding of records as containers of meaning with direct effect on outcomes, good or bad. I do appreciate that in the States, this can be a controversial view, but would support ARMA 100% for courageous representation of our domain.

    Beyond the issue of identify theft are issues of adequate record keeping in general, evidence-based practice and informatics as applied to both delivery of health care and administration of the accountable organization and its practitioners.

    Technology plays a vital and ever-expanding role in health services. But, my partner and I at IRM Strategies were contracted to do an assessment in one of the top grossing private hospitals overseas (60 billion annual receipts) and it came down to people & execution of strategy, not the capacity of technology. Isn’t it always? IMO, what ARMA should address is the idea of records as the foundation for accountability, transparency, capacity to know what transpired so that processes can be improved, mistakes avoided, etc. Speak to the need for authentic, reliable and valid records and let the technology folk meet that need.

    One guy’s thoughts!

    All the best-
    John
    http://twitter.com/johnjamesobrien

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