Guaranteeing the safety of private health information (PHI) is one of the most significant challenges faced by health care facilities. The issue has become even more critical after the implementation of electronic health records. In order to decrease the risks of compromising PHI, it is essential to develop and introduce a comprehensive information security program. To design one, it is critical to understand the existing issues, which can be easily identified by conducting the SWOT analysis.
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Track Record Successes
Modern information security systems often provide an opportunity to track records and activities once a user is logged in and runs the software (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013). From this perspective, implementing the latest available version of information security application makes it possible to guarantee the total security of patient data because all suspicious activities are recorded and can be used for making the system more perfect and reliable by addressing currently existing security gaps.
Due to the enhanced performance and improved reputation of a health care facility with a properly implemented security information system, as well as the portability of electronic health record applications, organizations create value. It can be represented in the desire of patients to be treated in a particular health care unit because they are confident in the safety of their personal information (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013). It is also true for attracting competent professionals who already obtain necessary skills for running EHRs, which is an advantage in case of filling a position at a new hospital because training such an individual is unnecessary. In this way, health care facilities obtain new resources, which can be used for upgrading currently deployed equipment and software and, as a result, attract more patients and skilled staff.
The implementation of information security systems is inseparable from the necessity to develop new skills and obtain new knowledge. It means that in the case of investing in the introduction of the newest technologies, a health care facility invests in the development of employees. From this perspective, the level of skills and expertise are constantly increasing. The same is true about the overall performance of staff. With better skills, employees become more efficient, thus improving the quality of provided care and creating a safer environment in a health care facility (Menachemi & Collum, 2011).
Processes and Systems
Properly implemented information security systems improve internal processes conducted by health care facilities. Because most of the processes become more strictly controlled, the implementation of PHI security practices enhances the overall performance and makes inner systems more integrated because all of them are constantly checked and upgraded in order to achieve a central objective – security of personal patient data (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013). More than that, due to conducting audits and security drills on a timely basis, the overall performance of involved employees, as well as their engagement in internal operations, is improving because they are interested in rewards for compliance with inner regulations and standards (Hjort, 2013). Finally, storing patient data by using software is more reliable compared to paper versions of medical records due to the limited access to the digitalized databases (Zuniga, 2015).
Providing patients with the professional care of exceptional quality is not the only factor, which contributes to the positive reputation of a health care facility. It is as well affected by the level of information security and the creation of a safe environment. In this way, developing a well-thought framework for protecting patient information is one way to improve the reputation of the health care facility as a whole. More than that, having enough skills and knowledge to operate the system properly, thus decreasing risks of data losses and compromising, enhance the reputations of all employees with access to PHI. Finally, guaranteeing flawlessness of system operation is beneficial for the reputations of both providers of the used software and management department of the facility (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013).
Knowledge and Expertise Gaps
In order to make the new system operational, it is critical to guarantee that all employees who will be involved in running it and granted access to PHI have an adequate technical background. In most cases, the ordinary staff does not possess enough knowledge and skills for using the software. It is represented in significant expertise and knowledge gap, which should be addressed (Menachemi & Collum, 2011).
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The introduction of the information security system is connected to the necessity of developing timelines for implementation. In some cases, these timeframes are poorly designed, i.e. lack detail. This weakness increases the risks of failing to meet the deadlines and set up the new system properly (Fernández-Alemán, Señor, Lozoya, & Toval, 2013).
Budgeting and Funding
The implementation of information security systems requires vast investment. It is necessary not only for purchasing necessary software that would satisfy the needs of a health care facility and help to achieve its strategic objectives but also training staff to run it properly and upgrade hardware if necessary so that it complies with technical characteristics of the purchased software (Menachemi & Collum, 2011).
In the case of implementing information security systems, the adoption of positive and negative motivation tools is advisable. In view of this recommendation, there is a risk of unnecessary human resource competition aimed at seeking undeserved rewards and ignoring the necessity of focusing on cooperation (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013).
Processes and Systems
The process of implementing an information security system is closely connected to the gaps in performance. In most cases, they result from disruptions in the workflow associated with setting up the system and informing employees on the peculiarities of its operation. More than that, the necessity to train employees to use the new system leads to a temporary decrease in the level of employee productivity (Menachemi & Collum, 2011).
Technology and Infrastructure
Because the implementation of security systems is often associated with investing in modern equipment, it is a perfect opportunity for upgrading used hardware and updating currently ran the software. More than that, it is related to the development of appropriate security infrastructures such as reliable passwords, antimalware applications, and network protocols (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013).
Changing Customer Behaviors
Because modern security information systems are reliable, they help to reduce costs connected to PHI loss or compromising (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013). In this way, avoiding security threats enhances positive changes in customer behaviors, as patient satisfaction increases and they are interested in being provided with further professional care in a particular health care facility.
Emerging and Changing Technology Markets
Once a health care facility introduces the information security system and all employees know how to run in properly, there is an opportunity for providing not only health care but also consulting services (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013). In this way, the implementation of the new system is connected to filling the niche in the new segment of information market – EHR consulting.
New Research and Development
As the introduction of the new security system is connected to upgrading hardware and updating software, it offers an opportunity for becoming engaged in the new research. For instance, a health care facility can serve as a platform for estimating the effectiveness of EHR. On the other hand, it can set up modern software for carrying out medicine-related studies and increase the reliability of findings due to using it (Menachemi & Collum, 2011).
The implementation of the newest security systems is related to a higher level of confidentiality and privacy. It satisfies customer demand for the safety of personal data, especially in cases of portable electronic health records and information systems, which can be run using tablets and smartphones (Zuniga, 2015).
In most cases, health care facilities use outmoded equipment for carrying out everyday operations. Although such machinery is enough for coping with routine tasks, there is a risk of failing to comply with the technical requirements of the newest software or inappropriate operation of the system. Besides, it might lead to data loss due to the inability to guarantee the proper installation of the system (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013).
Environmental factors are related to the necessity of complying with national standards and regulations. In some cases, there is a risk of failing to develop a relevant implementation plan, which would address all specificities of regulations, thus making the process of setting up the new system more lengthy and requiring more resources (Fernández-Alemán et al., 2013).
Because the implementation of the information security system and the process of setting it up to lead to temporary productivity losses, there is an increased risk of being outperformed by competitors due to patient dissatisfaction with provided care. At the same time, there is a risk of unfair competition, i.e. the instances of making attempts to bribe employees having access to PHI in order to compromise sensitive data, thus ruining the reputation of a health care facility (Mishra, Leone, Caputo, & Calabrisi, 2011).
In some cases, it is complicated to foresee particular categories of expenditures. In this way, the introduction of the information security system makes a health care facility economically vulnerable, especially in case of inaccurate implementation plans and the necessity to upgrade hardware, which was not included in the EHR budget. From this perspective, a health care unit is either left without resources for addressing unexpected issues such as accidents or fails to finance the proper implementation of the new system (Rhodes-Ousley, 2013).
Fernández-Alemán, J. L., Señor, E. C., Lozoya, P. A. O, & Toval, A. (2013). Security and privacy in electronic health records: A systemic review. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 46(3), 541-562.
Hjort, B. (2013). Privacy and security training (2013 update). Web.
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Menachemi, N., & Collum, T. H. (2011). Benefits and drawbacks of electronic health record systems. Risk Management and Health Care Policies, 4(1), 47-55.
Mishra, S., Leone, G. J., Caputo, D. J., & Calabrisi, R. R. (2011). Security awareness for health care information systems: A HIPAA compliance perspective. Issues in Information Systems, 12(1), 224-236.
Rhodes-Ousley, M. (2013). Information security: The complete reference (2nd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Zuniga, A. V. (2015). Patient access to electronic health records: Strengths, weaknesses and what’s needed to move forward. SLIS Student Research Journal, 5(1), 1-9.