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Make EHR Privacy a Priority, Says Adolescent Health Organization

Use of EHRs may improve health care accessibility, effectiveness, and safety for all patients, but it can be a challenge to protect patient confidentiality and privacy. On March 19, 2014, the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) issued a new position paper to illustrate best practices for designing and using EHRs to provide the best possible care for adolescent patients while addressing these privacy concerns. Overall, SAHM affirms that protecting adolescent confidentiality is a shared responsibility and requires ongoing vigilance.

An EHR is a record shared among many health care providers, of which all or part may also be accessed and used by the patient.

“Young people trust their health care providers with very sensitive information, such as family issues, substance use, mental health, and sexuality. Many currently available EHR systems are not designed to keep this private information private,” states Susan Hayden Gray, MD, the lead author of the position statement. “Protection of adolescent confidentiality is a responsibility shared by EHR vendors, hospital and clinic administrators, clinicians, patients, and families.”

The desire for increased transparency and electronic access to health information should be counter-balanced by privacy protections to ensure access to appropriate confidential care for all patients, especially vulnerable adolescents. “Adolescents may forgo seeking health care or discussing health concerns if they do not believe their providers will keep private information confidential,” says Ryan H. Pasternak, MD, an adolescent medicine specialist in New Orleans, and chairperson of the committee that developed the paper. “SAHM is providing a framework for how to best design, use, and regulate EHR systems to ensure the best possible care and information is provided, while also protecting adolescent privacy and confidentiality. As the leading organization dedicated to the health of adolescents, SAHM has taken a strong stand on the unique issues affecting adolescent patients with ever-growing reliance upon electronic health records and related data sharing systems.”

The full position paper is published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. Highlighted positions within the paper include the following:

Source: Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine