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Ethical Issues Associated with Interoperability of Electronic Health Records



Ethical Issues Associated with Interoperability of Electronic Health Records

The development of information and communication technology over the years has resulted in its adoption in a number of sectors including that of healthcare where it is used widely in electronic healthcare systems. The technology has helped to enhance collection, storages, as well as access to information such as that pertaining to patients. Today, interoperable electronic health records have been developed, allowing patients information to be shared electronically between healthcare providers such as physicians, or between a number of electronic health record systems with the aim of improving the quality and ease of the care provided to patients by the concerned healthcare providers. However, the technology raises a number of ethical concerns pertaining to the security, privacy, and confidentiality of the data collected.

The first ethical consideration is security. Interoperability and shared electronic health records result in a situation where information about a patient is spread across different healthcare systems and distributed to the concerned healthcare professionals. As Ganiat and Olusola (2015) point out, health information stored in electronic healthcare systems has become more accessible as a result of digitization of medical records pertaining to the patient and the availability of mobile devices that include smartphones. Therefore, electronic health records have become more susceptible to security challenges that include unauthorized modification of information and data pertaining to a given patient and unauthorized access.

Another major issue related to interoperability and shared electronic health records is privacy and confidentiality. The healthcare providers have a role to ensure that the information stored in health records is not disclosed or accessed without authorization and to ensure that only individuals that are authorized can access it. However, the nature of data and information stored and transmitted through the electronic health records system, such as a patient’s social security number, makes it become vulnerable to both confidentiality and privacy. Kopala and Mitchell (2011) point out that even healthcare providers themselves find it difficult to determine who should be given the authority to oversee, protect, and make decisions pertaining to the release of healthcare information of a patient. The third concern is about ownership of the information that is stored and transmitted through electronic health systems. While some people feel that information in the records belongs to the respective patients, others are of the view the medical records should be owned by the healthcare professionals. Therefore, the issue of ownership of information is both an ethical concern and a debatable topic.Ethical Issues Associated with Interoperability of Electronic Health Records


Ganiat, I. O., & Olusola, O. J. (2015). Ethical issues in interoperability of electronic healthcare systems. Communications on Applied Electronics, 1(8), 12-18.

Kopala, B., & Mitchell, M. E. (2011). Use of digital health records raises ethics concerns. JONA’S healthcare law, ethics and regulation, 13(3), 84-89.