HIPAA was explicitly designed to prevent job seekers from losing the health insurance they had with their previous position, and today, the legislature has expanded to cover the security of electronic documents and avoid all forms of personal health information from becoming public. The policy also includes tax details and billing instructions for insurance companies, ensuring that the industry remains regulated and working in the best interests of everyone involved. Tons of information, huh? Check out the HIPAA technical safeguards.

How would your life change if your medical information was public knowledge? For many people, disclosing their health history could put them at risk for losing their current insurance coverage, or even their jobs. For this reason, it’s of utmost importance that private health information remains private, regardless of what your medical conditions might be.

The federal government understands this issue, which is why HIPAA has been law since the mid-1990s. This five-part legislative policy was signed into law by then-president Bill Clinton in 1996 and controls your rights to keep your medical information private by restricting the ways that medical companies can pass it on and by ensuring that your permission is requested before your health history is passed on to any other companies.

What are HIPAA Safeguards?

One of the policies within HIPAA is a Security Rule. This rule applies to health care clearinghouses, health plans, and any health care provider that transmits your health information in an electric form. The Security Rule requires that all these providers maintain appropriate and reasonable safeguards for protecting your medical information, especially when electronic.

Specifically, these safeguards include the following four categories:

  1. Ensures that all electronic medical information that they receive, create, maintain, or transmit stays confidential, accurate and accessible for the people who have access to it.
  2. Identify and protect this information against security threats in all forms.
  3. Protect the documents from being used in ways that weren’t permitted or anticipated.
  4. Ensure that the workforce with access to the documents is compliant.

Technically, this “confidentiality” means that your health information isn’t available or disclosed to unauthorized persons or organizations. In this way, HIPAA has policies in place to ensure only your trusted medical team has access to your health history, and that this team needs formal consent from you to pass this information on to any other entity. The Security Rule is designed to be both flexible and scalable, meaning that it covers all types and sizes of medical entities to ensure you stay covered.

Of note, however, is the fact that information collected from personal health devices and smartphone apps is not currently protected under HIPAA. This means that the data that your Fitbit has about your exercise routines may technically be public information, so take care of these devices if you don’t want to risk this information being discovered.

Understanding How HIPAA Protects You

Why are all these regulations about your medical information so important? As HIPAA regulations continue to evolve to keep up with changing technology and the prevalence of keeping medical information online, the legislation maintains its goal of finding better ways to combat fraud, abuse, and waste in health insurance and healthcare industry to improve medical services for the long term. In this way, national standards are put in place to protect personal health information and put rules in place to punish anyone who abuses it.

By keeping your medical information only in the hands of the people who are qualified to see it, the federal government hopes to disincentive its theft and abuse by putting stringent policies in place to penalize anyone who defies HIPAA legislature.

Moving Forward with Better HIPAA Policy

While HIPAA goes a long way towards keeping your personal medical information safe, there are ways that healthcare professionals hope that the policy will improve in the future. Below are three main ways that HIPAA is likely to be changed in the future to create better technical safeguards to keep your information away from those who shouldn’t see it.

       Effects on clinical care: Because of how complicated complying with HIPAA can be for physicians, they are sometimes incentive to keep your health information to themselves at the cost of the quality of healthcare that you would receive. In the future, many hope the policy will change to make it easier for doctors to work together while still complying with HIPAA.

       Costs of implementation: The level of regulation in HIPAA can make it expensive to efficiently implement, so there is strong incentive to revamp the system and create more efficiency to bring down the price in the long run.

       Education and training: For physicians, learning to comply with HIPAA can be a lifelong process. Formal education opportunities for healthcare practitioners are increasing in quality, and the hope is that they will continue to do so.

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