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Electronic Health Records: What to Do during an Internet Outage

11.04.14 written by

This article was published in November-December 2014 MD News Cleveland/Akron/Canton Edition, click here for the link.   The content is below:

The Obama administration spent billions of dollars in Federal stimulus money to, in part, persuade conversion of medical records into digital form.  The idea behind the conversion was to reduce costs and improve patient care.  It is estimated that 78% of office-based physicians and 58% of hospitals are currently using electronic medical record (“EMR”) systems.  As with most changes, the conversion was not entirely seamless. 

Cloud or web-based EMR systems rely entirely on access to uninterrupted internet connections.  While rare, there are times when internet access can experience glitches or complete outages.  In the event of an internet outage, medical providers currently using cloud or web-based providers need to have backup plans to avoid shutting down their practice, or worse.

Medical providers have several backup options, some of which are more attractive than others. The first is to continue to house paper files on location or off-site. Housing paper files on-site is expensive and cumbersome.  Another option would be to store medical records on a server-based system.  Again, this option is expensive and cumbersome.  Additionally, if the medical provider maintained a server-based system, a cloud or web-based system would be unnecessary.

The best (and likely cheapest) option is to have a backup prepaid mobile hotspot device available.  Devices that enable medical providers to create remote internet connections are cheap compared to the possibility of closing down practice for a couple of days. Additionally, the internet service associated with creating and using the remote connection is typical pay-as-you-go, and therefore only becomes an expense if necessary. Considering the unlikely possibility of an internet connection being down for an extended period of time, a remote hotspot is a great backup option.

NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.