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Confidentiality Shortcomings With EHR Use for Parents, Teens

Modifications needed for EHRs and PHRs to meet confidentiality requirements of parents, teens

MONDAY, April 13, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Electronic health records (EHRs) and personal health records (PHRs) require significant modifications in order to meet the confidentiality requirements of specific populations, including parents and adolescents, according to a perspective piece published online April 13 in Pediatrics.

Noting that confidential information shared by adolescent patients and parents is accessible in EHRs and PHRs, Fabienne C. Bourgeois, M.D., M.P.H., from the Boston Children's Hospital, and colleagues discuss ways to overcome these challenges in protecting confidentiality.

The researchers note that EHRs have not been designed to allow all types of information that require special consideration to be flagged as sensitive. Furthermore, PHRs should be designed with different access tools so that users can have different views of the data. These shortcomings have been ignored in the rapid adoption of PHRs. Many health care centers have chosen to discontinue access for parents of adolescents, suppress health information, or revoke all access to the PHR, thereby limiting the risk of disclosure but impeding access to health information. Some centers have a process whereby the adolescent consents to sharing information in the PHR with their parents and can discontinue information sharing at any point due to a confidential visit.

"We encourage readers to insist that their EHR and PHR vendors focus on the need to provide the tools needed to appropriately protect privacy and confidentiality in this era of sharing," the authors write.

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