PACS the Privacy Issues Term Paper

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¶ … HIPAA act and the PACS program to determine whether they collide or coincide with each other.

PACS, the privacy issues

For the past few years the laws in health care with regard to privacy have created a bottleneck effect in many of the industry areas. Those who work in the health care field have had to secure privacy statements, insurance protocol has changed dramatically and many other areas have been addressed in a manner intended to improve overall care of patients, but in reality have also caused many obstacles to be overcome.

As the medical community continues to involve many new technologies have come forth to make the delivery of health care more accurate than ever before. One such technology is the PACS system that is used in the field of medical imaging. The PACS system fine tunes the use and delivery of medical imaging results through the use of digital technology. It allows patients and doctors to access information much more quickly than was possible in the past thereby creating more efficient means of health care delivery. While this is an exciting new ability in the field of medical imaging those who utilize it must take care not to violate the many restrictions that the HIPAA laws have placed on sharing of information without the patient's permission.

PURPOSE of the STUDY

The purpose of this study was to discover whether PACS and HIPAA collide or coincide with regard to the privacy afforded to patients in America today who enter the health care system and need medical imaging completed.

HYPOTHESIS

The working hypothesis of this study is: if PACS is utilized correctly and the proper security measures are put into place then the HIPAA laws will coincide with the PACS system and deliver the most secure, efficient information possible to patients and doctors across the nation.

DISCUSSION THROUGH LITERATURE

Before one can begin to determine whether HIPAA and PACS coincide or collide it is important that one first have a grasp on the two systems and how they operate within the health care industry.

Once one has a firm understanding of both systems and their workings one will be able to see the obstacles that they present to each other and the dovetailing that they share.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is an act that was mandated to take full effect in 2001 and it is designed to protect the privacy of health care consumers when it comes to sharing information about their health. It also protects the information about the consumer being openly discussed or having their identity divulged without their consent (HIPAA http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/).

While HIPAA is undeniably useful for the purpose of protecting the privacy of health care consumers in America it placed a significant burden on the health care industry with regards to its implementation (Glaser, 2000).

HIPAA's birth and legislation provided avenues to force the hand of health care industry workers with regards to standardizing the protection of privacy of the consumers that it serves.

It also provides protection for the health care providers as it also protects their privacy when it comes to having their name divulged without reason. One example of this is when one enters calls a hospital emergency room and asks what doctor is on duty one uses to get an answer. Today, the person is told that the HIPAA regulations prevent that information from being given out over the phone or in the waiting room.

In addition to protecting identities of both employees and patients within the health care field it also standardized the use of codes for the practice of insurance claims. This federally mandates program is meant to streamline insurance processing by providing one sent of codes that will be use throughout the industry.

Where HIPAA and PACS intersect significantly is in the area of security and privacy. Congress passed laws giving the health care industry until January 1, 2000 to fully implement the privacy standards that the act calls for (McClure, 2000).

HHS issued the proposed rule for privacy standards for individually identifiable health information, which seeks to protect the privacy of medical records that are transmitted or stored electronically and the paper printouts of these records (McClure, 2000)."

These regulations standardized and reduced the ability of medical imaging personnel to share information about their patients with regards to test results and test procedures.

While this was a positive step in the protection of the privacy rights of the consumer it had the potential to create a bottleneck of congestion in the medical imaging field and patients were contacted to provide permission and physicians and other health care providers waited to get results to order the next step in their patient's care.

PACS

The mandates that HIPAA puts into place for the privacy and protection of those purchasing health care are important but it is important that they don't place undue and unnecessary stress on other systems being used within the health care industry. One of those systems is the PACS system. It is a system that promises to revolutionize the medical imaging field.

PACS has commonly been referred to as a crowd pleaser because of its ability to share information with several people at the same time with an almost non-existent wait or delay.

In addition the proper use of the system provides privacy and security so that it complies with the measures mandated by HIPAA.

Before PACS came on the scene the field of medical imaging was fraught with issues because of time delays between having the procedure done and getting the results to the doctors and other health care professionals that needed them to make important health care decisions for their patients (Kywi, 2005).

One would typically have the procedure completed and then one would have to wait several days at the least to have their doctor find out the results. This proved to be problematic in situations where speedy results could mean more effective, earlier treatment.

Problems including gallstones and kidney stones would create significant pain and discomfort for patients who would sometimes wait three to five days to get the results and be scheduled for surgery. More importantly those delays sometimes meant issues would worsen with the liver and other organs of the body.

Also, healthcare delivery was occasionally jeopardized because some studies or reports were misplaced or not returned by users, leading to incomplete records. Patients, too, were inconvenienced. The many steps involved in imaging, interpreting the image, dictating a report and communicating the report to the patient's physician could take several days, which increased patients' anxiety about the results and delayed the next stage of their care (Kywi, 2005)."

The PACS system of approaching the field of medical imaging included several steps that created a more smooth flowing exchange of information between the medical imaging departments, the physicians and the patients.

Some of the benefits that occur with the PACS system include:

physicians to have access to all radiological images from their own computers;

clinicians at different locations to be able to simultaneously view the images;

access to images and reports to be nearly instantaneous, to improve both the quality of healthcare delivery and the efficiency and productivity of staff;

to create a digital archive that would help ease the process of comparing current images to past exams;

to make a complete break with the world of film (Kywi, 2005)."

All of these advantages lead to one outcome, better health care delivery to the consumers. Physicians no longer have to wait until a courier delivers results from tests that they have ordered. With PACS they can sit at the computer in their office or at home and pull any results that they need.

With PACS physicians no longer have to send one set of films or results to specialists one by one as the patient sees them. With the click of a mouse and a few well placed signals from the keyboard many physicians or clinics can view the results at the same time (Kywi, 2005).

The PACS system provides many benefits to the medical community including cost reductions. It has been estimated that almost half a million dollars are saved annually in chemical and film that is no longer needed.

PACS is also responsible for boosting productivity and has been credited with improving the use of resources. When a physician needs to examine a study or procedure that has been completed in the medical imaging field he or she can retrieve it almost as soon as it is completed without having to wait for results to be sent.

The system also provides a video radiologist clip that provides insight to the study without making the physician wait to talk to a "live" staff members.

This means that instant results are available thereby allowing the physician to make important health care decisions for patients without having delays that could be dangerous or costly.

If a physician wishes to consult with a technician or radiologist he… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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