The traditional physician-patient relationship begins when a patient seeks care from a doctor, and conversely, the doctor agrees to render care to the patient. Throughout history this has been the basis of the physician-patient relationship, a face-to-face interaction between both parties that implicates a doctor’s duty to a patient, and ultimately the applicable standard of care owed to that patient.
However, with the rise of technology, this traditional physician-patient relationship has grown to be quite complicated. In 2018, medical providers may be responsible for your care in a “non-traditional” sense. Specifically, when we look at the growth of technology in the medical field it’s apparent that the physician-patient relationship is continually evolving.
For example, there are now several electronic health portals in which patients can directly access not only their medical records, but also their doctor directly for medical advice via their cell phone, tablet, or computer. Essentially these tools make up the “secure patient portal.” These portals are essentially sites that compile all of the patient’s health information and allow patients to ask their doctors questions, schedule appointments, and request prescription refills. Although these portals have been praised by some as they allow for greater accessibility of physicians, and can also promote the patient’s ability to affirmatively take part in their health, there are still associated risks that often leave the patient portal “unsecure.”
These risks primarily stem from the use of electronic health portals via phones and portable electronic devices such as tablets, as these devices lack the security that has been instilled on hospital computers and may be accessed by experienced hackers who are skilled at undermining our electronic devices. Nonetheless, there are laws and guidelines that regulate this technology. Specifically, with the implementation of 45 C.F.R. §164.312(e)(1), was a requirement to “[i]mplement technical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to electronic protected health information that is being transmitted over an electronic communications network.”
These precautions have been in existence since the rise of electronic communication as it relates to medical information, however, with the sophistication of online hackers as well as technology in general, patients, doctors, and hospitals are at risk when they take part in this wide technological network. More specifically, with the use of cell phones and tablets, doctors and patients may both be rendering themselves vulnerable to the distribution of private health information. Further, the use of these electronics may be risky in a less technical sense in that if a physician or patient’s phone or tablet is misplaced or even stolen, a wide variety of personal information may be placed in the hands of the wrong person. Accordingly, it is as important as ever to take all measures necessary to keep this information private when utilizing the newest form of technology, especially in light of the ongoing security breaches in various institutions across the United States.