By this point, most Americans have heard about HIPAA, and believe that it concerns the healthcare system but do not understand the full extent of it or how important it is for the patients too.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a federal law established to ensure patients’ data are well handled and protected.
Let’s have a look at the top five reasons why HIPAA Compliance is important for patients:
Protection from identity theft
Healthcare data are well sought out because they are very rich in information. Protected healthcare information consists of identifiable information such as:
- Patient’s name and addresses, date of birth, etc.
- Credit card numbers, social security numbers, billing information, etc.
- Claims information, medical records, prescriptions, etc.
- Other relevant paper or electronic health records.
This is why PHI is so highly valued on the black market. A single file of PHI can be sold for up to $20,000. Cyberattackers and even employees sometimes try to get their hands on these kinds of information only to misuse them. For example, frauds related to claiming treatments by using someone else’s insurance or illegally obtaining restricted prescribed drugs. In short medical identity thefts.
In response to the growth of online technologies and digitization, HIPAA requires covered entities and its business associates to protect PHI. Covered entities include healthcare clearinghouses, health plans and providers are subject to protect and control access of PHI or otherwise face hefty penalties or even serve jail time.
This is why HIPAA compliance management is vital for patient safety. HIPAA’s rules and regulations hold the healthcare industry accountable for how PHI is managed and protected from medical identity thefts and frauds.
Health data is bound to privacy
HIPAA’s rules and regulations require covered entities and business associates to keep patient information safe by any means necessary. The HIPAA Privacy rule restricts individuals from accessing patient data and sharing it without obtaining the patient’s consent first.
According to the law, business associates who perform healthcare operations can obtain the information on behalf of a covered entity that requires access to PHI such as mailing vendors, payment processors or transcription service providers. Access is limited to healthcare employees who only actually need these data to do their jobs. Access and disclosure of PHI to business associates, individuals or organizations are required to keep data secure and private.
Health data is bound to security
Due to overwhelming numbers of breaches, healthcare organizations are also required to implement adequate measures to consistently keep any health data created, stored or transmitted secure. For example, setting up firewalls, malware protection software for electronic devices containing PHI, and physical security measures for paper health records are put in place to protect data.
HIPAA also requires healthcare employees to be well-trained and informed on how to spot cyber-attack related threats to prevent unauthorized access to patients and plan members’ health data.
As a healthcare provider, the patient’s trust and wellbeing must be the topmost priority. Therefore proper HIPAA compliance management can benefit both caregivers and consumers by ensuring patient data integrity and security.
Patient access to medical records
The best part of the HIPAA law is that patients have full control over their medical records. However, covered entities may deny access under a few special circumstances. Access may be denied If the healthcare professionals believe that granting access may cause harm to the individual or other party. The following exceptions when access can be denied are:
- Access to laboratory results which is prohibited by the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Act (CLIA)
- Psychotherapy notes
- Information accumulated for legal procedures
- When certain research laboratories are holding up information for study purposes involving treatment, given that the individual has agreed to participate in the research and is temporarily suspended from access.
That being said, upon requests, patients can still get access to their full medical records. Covered entities cannot deny personal health records’ access by patients, but they can file a claim against it.
The law also provides PHI confidentiality of the patients. Patients can control who to whom information can be shared. For instance, the patient may want to keep sensitive information hidden from their employers, family members and such. Only when needed covered entities and business entities can share information among them.
Patients are notified after breaches
Under HIPAA, healthcare organizations are required to inform and notify patients if a breach occurs. Despite all security measures in place, privacy and security breaches may still take place as seen last year. This allows the victims to take precautionary measures from the risk of identity thefts and frauds. Usually, healthcare organizations are required to issue a notification of breach within 60 days of discovery.
HIPAA Ready– the complete HIPAA Compliance management software
HIPAA is a complex law known to most but not fully understood by many. Even after having the basic understanding, many hospitals do not when an action prompted by a patient or an employee is a violation or not. Sometimes hospitals believe that excess monitoring is time-consuming and resource wasting.
That is why HIPAA Ready was designed to help ease the burden of healthcare providers by simplifying contexts of the HIPAA. This robust application was built to help detect whether an action is HIPAA compliant or not. It contains all HIPAA related materials to streamline the HIPAA Compliance management processes by including a digital checklist of tasks, meetings and training information.