What Is HIPAA And Why Is It Important For You?

Our life’s most important data can be healthcare information. The results of your tests and scans, medical history, and your health insurance details are presently contained in your health records. These types of information are under a special class of personally identifiable information, and the one that protects it is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA law.

HIPAA is a federal law that Former President Bill Clinton signed on Aug. 21, 1996. It’s all about giving security provisions and data privacy to defend medical data. HIPAA supersedes state laws concerning medical data safety unless there’s a stricter state law.

There are two purposes for this law. First, to lower healthcare costs by standardizing the electronic transmission of financial and administrative transactions. The second is to give ongoing health insurance coverage for workers that changed or lost their jobs. Other aims are to improve access to health insurance and long-term care services, make the health insurance system better and fight abuse, fraud, and waste in health insurance and healthcare delivery. There has been an upswing of interest in HIPAA lately due to the rise of global data breaches.

Likewise, suppose you are working within or are supporting the healthcare industry and have tasks that need access to personal health information. In that case, you must take annual HIPAA training to get a HIPAA certification. This training is necessary to ensure that you’re HIPAA compliant and don’t violate federal regulations.

All in all, if you want to know more, here are added pieces of information on what HIPAA is and why it’s vital for you as a patient or healthcare provider.

Two Aspects Of HIPAA Compliance

In terms of compliance, people should consider two aspects—the security rule and the privacy rule.

  • HIPAA Security Rule: This rule outlines the responsibilities of every organization that handles electronically protected health information.
  • HIPAA Privacy Rule: Arranges the kinds of data considered protected health information. 

Types Of Data Covered By HIPAA

Personal health information (PHI) refers to any health data from a patient. A PHI doesn’t cover employment records or data identifying a person.

 The following are examples of PHI:

  • Medical records
  • Photos and images
  • Details of attendance
  • Biometric data
  • Details of health plans
  • Personal health issues
  • Membership or account number

Why Is HIPAA Essential For Healthcare Providers?

There are several benefits that HIPAA can give to healthcare providers. It assisted in streamlining administrative healthcare functions, increasing efficiency in the healthcare industry, such as reducing healthcare costs and making sure that health information is shared securely. Overall, this is crucial for healthcare providers as failure to do so can result in law violations.

Likewise, healthcare workers, such as nurses, must ensure to protect PHI through the following practices:

  • Proper use of social media and patient testimonials: It shouldn’t be allowed for a healthcare worker to use social media in the workplace. However, this is an unrealistic expectation. Therefore, knowing when or when not to use social media at work must be upheld by the staff.
  • Minimum necessary standard: the proper use and disclosure of PHI are what minimum necessary standard deals with. This standard requires that PHI be only used or disclosed for specific objectives such as payment, treatment, or healthcare operations.
  • Responding to patient reviews: The law has tight restrictions on responding to patients’ online reviews. If the response confirms that the patient is the reviewer, it’s a HIPAA violation. In this case, a simple ‘Please call us’ or ‘Thank you for the review’ are the only HIPAA-compliant answers.

Why Is HIPAA Essential For Patients?

The most significant advantage of enacting HIPAA is for patients. It’s because it guarantees that health plans, healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, and business associates of HIPAA-covered entities should employ various protections such as administrative, physical, and technical protections to safeguard sensitive personal and health data. Willful neglect of healthcare organizations to comply with this law and the existence of uncorrected violations can result in fines from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) from up to USD$50,000 per violation and a maximum of USD$1.5 million for repeated violations per year.

Control to who can access health data is set by HIPAA to healthcare organizations, allowing restrictions to information in terms of who can view and share it. Likewise, in terms of having a scenario of a medical data breach, HIPAA orders that patients, through the healthcare organizations, must become aware that their information was compromised or stolen within 60 days. 

To Sum Up

Healthcare information is perhaps the most essential data of your life. These types of information are personally identifiable, and HIPAA law is responsible for safeguarding it. This law provides security provisions and data privacy to protect medical data. It also takes command over state laws concerning the security of medical information, except if the state laws are much stricter. 

Lately, as data breaches have grown globally, there has been a spiral of interest concerning such a law. But what matters is that people be aware of HIPAA so that patients will know their rights and that healthcare providers will know and follow a law that can benefit them and the patient.

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