Remaining HIPAA-compliant in an Emergency
Being HIPAA compliant means protecting student health information, but it also means the information needs to be available for student care. SMR protects both the security and integrity of the information during a natural disaster, as the information is in a digital environment, unexposed to the event. SMR also makes the information available when the school is able to resume operations.
According to Online Tech, “Availability means that [personal health information] is always available, accessible and never lost. When a patient arrives at the emergency room at three o’clock in the morning, the electronic health records need to be available so the physician can address the emergency with all of the patient’s records at her fingertips.” In a school, the health center is the emergency room, and student information should be available at all times in order to properly provide care.
It likely goes without saying, but the information should never be lost. “All HIPAA applications should use offsite data backup. That way, if the production data center has a disaster or is destroyed, the [personal health information] isn’t lost. The backup should be located a significant distance away to assure the same disaster doesn’t strike both sites,” (Online Tech). With a paper-based system, this element of HIPAA compliance cannot be fulfilled. Paper records, regardless of how many copies are made and stored in various locations, will never be invulnerable to natural disasters. Availability may be nonexistent if tornadoes have blown the records away, fire has consumed them, or water has soaked them so that they are illegible. And, if copies have not been made and stored in a separate location, the information may be forever lost. A digital environment, like SMR, eradicates all of that risk, and allows optimum care to resume as quickly as possible.