Thinking about setting up a home page?

Look before you leap into cyberspace

Whether it is for marketing or for the transmission of medical data, more and more hospitals are setting up home pages on the World Wide Web of the Internet. But, depending on your hospital's purposes for going on the Internet, risk managers should advise their technology departments to proceed with caution into cyberspace.

"The Web is fraught with problems," says Alice Epstein, MHA, FASHRM, a consultant with CNA's HealthPro in Durango, CO. "There is no security on the Internet."

If a hospital plans to transmit patient records to physicians and satellite facilities using the Internet, risk managers should ensure that appropriate security measures are being taken which will limit, but not prevent, intruders from capturing the information. One way to do this is through encryption, says Dave Darnell, BS, MBA, president of SysTrends, a computer consulting firm in Tempe, AZ.

Encryption codes the information so that only the authorized recipient should be able to decode it, Darnell explains.

Only encryption methods that have been tested and determined to be unbreakable should be used, Darnell says. "The most dangerous thing is to try something new in encryption."

Many hospitals also are using home pages on the Internet to market wellness programs, immunization clinics, and other services. This use has significantly less risk management concerns. However, risk managers should ensure that someone from the hospital's technology department checks the homepage on a regular basis to make sure that its contents have not been changed or are not proprietary.

"As long as you know that whatever you put on there does not need to be protected from competitors or for confidentiality it is OK," Epstein says. "It's like putting an advertisement in the newspaper." *

Are you up on your tech talk?

Unless you are an avid tech, chances are that the terminology may have passed you by. Here are definitions for the some of the latest terms being bandied about by the information technology consultants.

World Wide Web (WWW): The graphical portion of the Internet.

Web site: Think of it as an address on the internet.

Healthcare Information Network (HIN): Information ranging from patient records to lab results to prescriptions is exchanged within a defined system of users, such as between an insurance company and a hospital.

Community Health Information Network (CHIN): Members of a community collect demographic information about individuals from that community which supplement the medical records. It is thought to be an efficiency of electronic medical records since the information only needs to be collected once and then updated as needed.

Patient Card: A credit card-sized device containing an individual's medical record that the person carries with him in his wallet.

Bar Coding: The stripes that you see on the side of packaged foods are making a comeback in the health care industry for locating medical records. *