2018 is going to be a big year for HIPAA enforcement. Fines are steep, and violations can cost you. Make sure your EHR and EMR software is up to the task.

What’s Happening in 2018?

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Experts are predicting that there will be less funding for the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in 2018 than in previous years. The OCR is responsible for enforcing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Many believe that this will mean fewer enforcement actions. On the other hand, experts predict that those enforcement actions will be much more aggressive. Already, the penalties for HIPAA violations can be as much as $50,000 per violationIn addition, some violations carry criminal penalties, including jail time. As a result, your organization does not want to be on the wrong side of HIPAA laws.

Make sure that your EHR and EMR software are HIPAA compliant and ready. This means privacy, and this means security.

EHR EMR Software, What’s the Difference?

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A lot of people use these terms to mean the same thing. And there is some overlap. However, when it comes right down to it, depending on the system, there can be some important differences.

What is EMR Software?

The purpose of EMR (Electronic Medical Records) software is to keep track of patient records. Providers use it to track patient data over time, identify patients who are due for checkups and monitor quality control for their practices. EMR software is very handy for record keeping within a practice. However, EMR software generally doesn’t facilitate moving information out of a practice, for example, between different providers serving the same patient.

What is EHR Software?

The purpose of EHR (Electronic Health Record) software is to share information between healthcare providers, labs, specialists, etc. EHR software collects all patient data in one handy, shareable format so that everyone involved in a patient’s care has access to it. Plus, information in an EHR is portable. That is, it moves with a patient, wherever that patient may go. In addition, many EHR suites offer a patient interface, so patients can check test results and other important information. (For an example of a patient interface, check out My Health Vanderbilt.)

Whatever systems you’re using, make sure that they’re up to the all-important job of safeguarding your patients’ private health information (PHI). Here are a few popular EHR and EMR software solutions. See how they compare with the one you’re using.

EHR and EMR Software: Some Examples


AthenaClinicals is a cloud-based EHR suite. Its main selling point is its intuitive interface that allows for fast, natural documentation. Some call it the EHR that “lets doctors be doctors.” This means that information input follows, rather than disrupts, the flow of conversation between doctor and patient. In addition, it delegates one-third of the documentation work to clinical staff, so that doctors and other healthcare providers can focus on patient care instead of paperwork. One particularly interesting feature is a secure, HIPAA compliant text messaging service. This allows practitioners to connect and consult with each other in real time, in a safe and secure way.

MediTouch EMR

MediTouch EMR is a cloud-based EMR system. Remember the difference between EMR and EHR? With MediTouch EMR, you will need an additional EHR partner (like MediTouch EHR.) This system allows web-based access through any device or operating system. In addition, this EMR comes with a patient interface, and the ability to transmit patient data out of your practice. SoftwareAdvice.Com considers MediTouch EMR to be good value for money. Also, MediTouch has a HIPAA compliant messaging tool. In addition, it’s interoperable with over 200 labs across the country.

NextGen Ambulator EHR

This is an electronic health record solution for small practices, group practices, and health systems. FinancesOnline considers it one of the best EHR solutions. NextGen has partnered with Itelagen for data security and HIPAA compliance.


WebPT is a cloud-based EMR solution aimed at physical therapists. WebPT offers some specific security measures to help your practice to stay HIPAA compliant. These include data storage in a super secure facility, and unique user IDs and passwords for each therapist, PTA, front-office staff member, and administrator. In this way, WebPT secures patient data at both ends.

Questions to Ask

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When considering EHR or EMR software, your practice should ask the following questions.

  • What specific HIPAA security measures are they are offering? Is the software merely “HIPAA Compliant” (meaning able to meet HIPAA regulations) or is it it certified?
  • Does the software suite have any provisions to deal with a data breach? Does it have any backup provisions?
  • Do any data breach protections extend to affiliated businesses that work with your practice?
  • What data security measures does the company employ at its data storage facilities?
  • Does the vendor offer encryption and decryption services?
  • How does the EMR vendor deal with the security of mobile devices?
  • What about secure data messaging?
  • In the case of a HIPAA violation that comes down to software error, who would be responsible?

In Conclusion

EHR and EMR software have revolutionized medical record keeping. Never before has it been so easy to track and store patient data, compile reports, and predict necessary scans and procedures. Practice management has never been so easy. And never before has it been so easy to share information between specialists, labs, and health care providers.

But electronic data comes with a raft of security concerns. Who is storing patients’ private data? Where are they storing it? And what measures are they taking to secure private health information? In addition, how can we guarantee secure transfer of data in order to both protect patient privacy and to protect medical practices from costly fines and penalties?

The right software can help your practice to streamline procedures and protect data. You just need to be aware of your options, and to ask the right questions.

Featured Image is CC0, by McMurrayjulie, via Pixabay.

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