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Security measures aim to keep data safe

One of the goals of the HITECH Act is to empower patients to participate in their health care and in making decisions.

For example, hospitals don’t meet federal standards for implementing the technology unless at least 5 percent of discharged patients access their records for follow-up instructions after they go home.

Local folks will soon be able to schedule doctor appointments, ask medical questions, receive test results and request prescription refills through a secure portal, officials said.

But giving patients online access to their medical records could mean making those files vulnerable to prying eyes.

“That’s the big fear of the patients – that we’re just throwing their information out to the wind, so to speak,” said Ron Double, Parkview Health’s chief information officer.

Both network officials emphasized the security protocols built into the software they’ve chosen.

All electronic medical record software programs have a feature called “break the glass,” said Dr. Steven Orlow, Lutheran Hospital’s chief medical information officer.

The option allows someone who isn’t preauthorized to look at a patient’s encrypted medical record – something that’s essential in the case of an emergency room visit – but it warns the person accessing the file that an audit trail is being established.

Hospital officials follow up those trails, Orlow and Double said. Employees who breach privacy rules are dismissed.