By now, most people in the U.S. have heard of HIPAA, yet many are still unaware of what this law is and what it does. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law put in place to safeguard and control access to patient data. Let’s discuss this more by examining 3 reasons why HIPAA is important to patients.
1. Securing Private Data from Identity Theft
The term used with HIPAA is: protected health information (PHI), which consists of all individually identifiable health information of patients. For example:
- Patient’s name, phone, birth date, social security number, etc.
- Billing records, credit card information, etc.
- Medical records, prescriptions, lab work, etc.
- Any other electronic or paper health records
This is the information covered entities and their business associates are required to protect under the guidelines of the HIPAA requirements. Covered entities are: providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses; these entities are subject to heavy fines and even imprisonment for disclosing PHI in violation of HIPAA requirements.
HIPAA is a response to growing digitalization and online technologies, which have transformed the way medical records and information is shared and used. The healthcare industry has always been one of the biggest targets for identity theft from online hackers. Hackers are constantly trying to steal PHI of patients, in order to sell it on the black market for identity theft and fraud purposes.
Patients benefit from HIPAA laws because it regulates and holds the healthcare industry (and their business associates) accountable for how they manage and protect the sensitive private information of their patients. Covered entities in compliance with HIPAA are protecting their patients from identity theft and fraud.
2. Access to Full Medical Records
Under HIPAA laws, patients have full access to their medical records, yet there are special circumstances when access can be denied. An article found on Health IT Security called: “Easing HIPAA Violation Concerns with Patient Data Access”, written on January 3, 2017 by Elizabeth Snell, explains: “There are situations where patients can be denied access to PHI.A covered entity many deny access if a healthcare professional believes access could cause harm to the individual or another. The Privacy Rule also has the following exceptions to PHI access:
- Psychotherapy notes
- Information compiled for legal proceedings
- Laboratory results to which the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA) prohibits access
- Information held by certain research laboratories”
Despite these special circumstances, patients will benefit from having easier access to their full health records upon request. Covered entities cannot deny patients access to their personal medical records, yet they can charge for them.
3. Confidentiality with PHI
HIPAA also gives patients confidentiality with their PHI. Beyond protecting from identity theft online, this ensures patients can control who has access to their PHI. Patients may want their PHI kept from: family members, other providers, employers, etc.Under HIPAA, covered entities can only share PHI with other covered entities and business associates on an as needed basis. Confidentiality also means providers will not disclose PHI to co-workers or people outside of work, and will operate with more confidentiality within waiting rooms and healthcare facilities.With stricter confidentiality rules regulating the sharing of PHI, patients have more control over who can access their personal medical information. When needed, patients can give permission for specified: family members, other covered entities, employers, etc., to have access to their PHI.
HIPAA is a federal law created to protect patients from medical identity theft and fraud; it also gives them greater access to their medical records and more robust confidentiality. With the rise of digitalization, EHRs, and online technologies, HIPAA is a needed solution to protect patients from hackers and unauthorized access to their private medical and personal information.
Covered entities and their business associates have to work together to stay in compliance with HIPAA laws, in order to ensure protection for patients and avoid costly breaches. SecureNetMD® understands this important need and offers to be a HIPAA complaint MSP for healthcare facilities.