The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patients’ confidentiality by ensuring that anyone who has access to their medical records cannot, by law, reveal any aspects of their health to anyone other than the patient unless the patient first gives written consent to do so. Here’s a look at how the program started and where it stands today.
History of HIPAA
HIPAA was created in 1996 to provide continued health insurance coverage to employees and their families when they change or lose their jobs and to establish a national standard for electronic health care transactions. The second part of the act set up identifiers for providers, health insurance plans, and employees.
Purpose of HIPAA
HIPAA ensures that once you receive health insurance via your employment, you won’t lose it. It also provides a convenient way for your medical records to be transferred from doctor to doctor and facility to facility via electronic transactions, making it easier on you when you are referred to a specialist. This encourages the widespread use of electronic patient records. Many hospitals, doctor offices, and pharmacies use this technology today to keep patients’ records easily accessible.
Right to Privacy
Image via Flickr by Army Medicine
One of the biggest aspects of HIPAA is the privacy it ensures patients, including children. Under HIPAA law, any patient ages 12 to 18 must give their written consent before a doctor can speak to anyone else regarding their medical issues. Although parents may not be happy with this section of the Act, it does help doctors treat their younger patients better. If the patient knows that their information is completely private, including from their parents, they’re more likely to open up to the doctor.
Determining HIPAA Compliance
With the implementation of HIPAA, companies had to determine if they needed to be HIPAA Compliant. Companies that deal with sensitive patient data, such as drug screening, should definitely be HIPAA Compliant. Companies that deal with medical records, including claims processors, legal services, software services, and customer relations management, should also be compliant. The HIPAA covered entity provides more information on who needs to be compliant.
Like any other program, HIPAA must undergo transitions as the world grows. Since its implementation, medical records have become almost completely electronic. Even in hospitals, doctors carry around their patients’ medical charts on tablets instead of bulky folders. With Wi-Fi becoming the standard, protecting medical records has become more important than ever. One of the latest rules expands privacy and security rules for violations to business associates of HIPAA. As time and technology progress, HIPAA laws will need to be updated, just like any other law.
HIPAA guarantees the protection of your privacy when it comes to your health and healthcare. Thanks to the program, you can be sure you are getting all of the protection you need. No one should ever have to fear talking to their doctor about their health care needs. Thanks to HIPAA, no one has to.
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