HIPAA is the epitome of healthcare confidentiality. For those of you who are unaware of its benefits, you might imagine a sinister voice, ringing out, ‘Big Brother is watching you’, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! HIPAA privacy rule is meant to protect you from accidents that would normally threaten the security of your health information.
First, HIPAA is an acronym for the ‘Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act’, introduced by Congress in 1996. Initially, these series of legislative rules secured health insurance for people who changed or lost their job. Incorporating HIPAA Privacy rule reduced the possibility of abuse, fraud, and maintained security benefits for employees. Its presence has mandated industry-wide standards for healthcare information on electronic billing and other processes.
Why is HIPAA Important to You?
- HIPAA Compliance For Patients: This ensures that all health information is appropriately guarded against unauthorized access. Consequently, a subsection of HIPAA, called Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI), deals with data storage and privacy. You see, there’s a thin balance to maintain when converting physical data into digital data, so ePHI centralizes information to a virtual hub. This is extremely helpful for any physician authorized to access your health records. However, as you might guess, having all your documents in one location makes it a little more vulnerable as well.
- HIPAA Compliant Web Hosts For Hospitals: Due to the delicate nature of these documents, certain businesses that handle electronic medical records must use a host that is HIPAA-compliant to protect patient data. If your website or mobile site is found not to follow regulations, your company is subject to government fines and at-risk for lawsuits. In one case, The Department of Health and Human Services fined New York and Presbyterian Hospital over $3 million because search engines had access to electronic patient data as a result of “server misconfiguration”.
- Privacy Regulations For Physicians: The HIPAA Privacy rules require all healthcare providers and organizations, as well as their business associates, to develop, train their employees, and follow procedures that ensure the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI).This applies to all forms of PHI, including paper, oral, and electronic, whether they’re transferred, received, handled, or shared. Also, only the minimum health information necessary to conduct business is to be used or shared.
- Marketability: Compliance factors into a hospital or business’ marketability. Affiliations, mergers, integrations can all be affected by the provider’s ability to uphold HIPAA compliance. Otherwise, hospitals are taking on potential liabilities. Would you want to work with a company that has a history of data breaches or server failures?
- Your Rights As A Patient: As a patient, you have specific rights and it’s best for you to know them in case of emergencies. Health insurers and providers, who are covered entities, must comply with a patient’s specific requests: see and receive a copy of your health records; corrections made to your PHI; notification of how your health information is used and shared; control of whether your information can be used or shared for certain purposes; reports on when and why your health information was shared; notification of any breaches, big (more than 500 patients) or small (less than 500 patients), as well as detailed information regarding the nature of those breaches.