HIPAA regulation can seem complicated, but it doesn’t need to be that way. You don’t need to resort to a HIPAA for Dummies book in order to understand it. In fact, HIPAA legislation is not as complicated as you think, and the policy has real implications for the safety of your medical information- even in the age of the internet.
Why Does HIPAA Exist?
In essence, HIPAA regulations are a collection of rules that govern the ways that private health information can be shared, stored and utilized by anyone other than the citizen that the information pertains to.
HIPAA stands for the ‘Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,’ and its primary focus is to protect sensitive health information (oral, written and digital) from being used in ways that are against the wishes of the patient it applies to. This offers significant legal protection against health care identity theft and ensures that employees won’t lose their health care coverage if they lose or switch their job.
When Was HIPAA Created?
HIPAA was initially proposed in 1996 during Bill Clinton’s presidency as a way to codify the healthcare rights of employees between jobs. Since then, the policy has expanded into legislation that governs almost every aspect of privacy protection in the healthcare system, from health insurance fraud, acceptance of pre-existing conditions, tax provisions for medical savings, and more.
The legislature has changed over time, and in recent years it’s been used to force the healthcare industry to computerize and safely store paper records.
When you meet with your healthcare provider, provisions from HIPAA mean that they will need to explain to you exactly how they plan to use your medical information (the same policy applies to your insurance company). You have the right to ask for copies of all your medical information and a history of any unusual disclosures. If anything is misrepresented, you can request that the appropriate changes be made.
If your doctor or insurance provider wants to share your health information, you need to give them formal consent and may clarify that the information requested will only be used for health purposes. This is crucial, as it’s illegal through HIPAA for your health information to be used by banks during loan decisions or when an employer is deciding whether to hire you. If you find evidence that your health information is being misused, you have the right to complain about HIPAA violation.
What is Protected by HIPAA?
Most of your health information is protected under HIPAA, including all personal information that could be used to identify you, like your previous health history, health status, or payment information.
However, HIPAA doesn’t protect the health information that doesn’t explicitly link to you. This means that any health data that is more or less anonymous can be added to medical databases. Likewise, your information may legally be released in the instances when different care providers need to coordinate the details of your treatment plan between them.
What is NOT Protected by HIPAA?
While all medical and medical insurance companies are obligated by the federal government to comply with HIPAA, many other organizations are excluded from it, including your life insurance provider, employer, worker’s compensation carrier and most school districts. Notably, the medical information you share on your smartphone through health-tracking apps also isn’t covered, nor is the information that people pick up without your consent (like from going through your trash).
Who Enforces HIPAA?
HIPAA is a policy of the federal government, meaning that the Office enforces it for Civil Rights, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While HIPAA protects the rights of private citizens, you can’t technically sue over a HIPAA violation as an individual. Instead, you can file a complaint.
What are the Best HIPPA Training Video Resources Online?
Understanding HIPAA training requirements can be tricky, which is why training videos are such a huge asset for private citizens and medical practitioners alike. Pro HIPAA, HIPAA GPS, and Business Training Online all provide a wealth of online resources for helping you get behind the scenes with HIPAA regulation to understand how it can affect you in your personal and professional life.
Once you understand the HIPAA basics, you won’t feel like a health privacy dummy any longer. HIPAA isn’t as confusing as many people think it is, and turning to the right resources can help you get on top of this policy.