New privacy and security how-to for physicians is a must-have

Finally, a resource created just for the physician’s practice: The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has released its Guide to Privacy and Security of Health Information for eligible providers. This guide, which is extremely well done, is more importantly easy to read for the non-technical and covers the topic completely.

After reading this guide, no practice manager or physician should have questions regarding what is required, what they need to do, what will achieve compliance, and where they can find additional help and useful resources. The document itself can be found by going to the ONC website and then clicking on the tab for Privacy & Security. There is a handy icon there to allow you to download your own copy.

The layout of the guide is simple, but done in such a way that it really makes sense to the reader and presents the material in a way that is relevant to what physicians need to know and understand in terms of how to do to support compliance and meaningful use. The first chapter starts by reminding us of the important balance that needs to be struck between all of these regulatory requirements and what is truly important – serving and caring for patients. I think the drafters understood that starting anywhere else would signal that this could be just another privacy and security primer, and that is definitely not what ONC has put together here.

The next two chapters provide a step-by-step analysis and explanation of the privacy and security requirements around the electronic health record and a very helpful 10-step process for achieving meaningful use. Throughout there are helpful hints, tips and references to other resources that physician practices can access to accomplish their privacy and security responsibilities. Essentially, it provides an easy cookbook approach, complete with descriptions and explanations of all the ingredients, and detailed instructions with the cook’s experience provided like the notes your mom used to write in the margin of her recipes…the little things that made all the difference, and allowed the novice cook to prepare a great meal by simply following the directions.

Last but not least, ONC provides an entire chapter devoted to listing all of the various resources available from around the industry and government in one place and with helpful links for everything listed. There is absolutely no effort required on the physician practice's part to acquire this information other than clicking on or typing a link into a browser. You can’t get it much easier than that. So if you don’t have this resource yet, I encourage you to go get it. You’ll be glad you did.

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