Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems have transformed medical health records from the traditional paper-based version to an electronic version which allows easy, safe and instant access, recovery and transfer of this data for prescribed users.

With the entire patient information including demographics, social history, medication, diagnosis, treatment and results in the system, doctors are able to provide results faster and with lesser chance of error.

However, one hurdle has persistently dampened the growth of EHRs. Yes I’m talking about data privacy and security. Providers and patients alike are extremely worried about the safekeeping of vulnerable patient data that ranges from patient health information to their credit card numbers.

Behavioral health is a specialty that is no stranger to privacy concerns. Ethical concerns are often associated with the use of EHRs for this specialty, with many worried about the online transfer of patient health information and the use of this information for data mining.

For behavioral health patients, confidentiality of their records is often an integral component of the effectiveness of this treatment. Take a celebrity suffering from substance abuse for example. His fans finding out about his condition prior to the completion of the recovery process could, in fact, adversely affect the process and he could relapse during treatment. 

When confidentiality is breached, stress, fatigue and tension are three of the factors that patients commonly suffer from; the factors resulting from changes in social, employment and family relationships.

And finally, there’s the issue of data mining. While using this information for R&D purposes is extremely important, and could have significant long-term benefits; there are ethical hurdles. Respecting patient rights (terms of data sharing after consent) must always be a strict condition followed by all those using this data. In reality, meeting this condition and working for the welfare of the many (who will benefit from R&D) makes the whole process extremely tricky.

This is the reason why most behavior health physicians were excluded from the Meaningful Use program. And the solution to this does lie in a comprehensive and well thought out campaign, and government intervention is key in making sure this happens.