The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 was signed into legislation by Bill Clinton with the purpose of protecting and controlling access to patient data. HIPAA covers patient privacy, health data security, and the disclosures and uses of said information. HIPAA helps improve efficiency and streamlines administrative functions within the healthcare industry to help the transfer of clear and universally used electronic health information between healthcare plans and providers. With the greatest benefits of HIPAA going towards patients, there are four main reasons why HIPAA is so important for someone receiving medical coverage or care.
1) HIPAA gives every patient the right to access copies of their medical records. Patients are able to take an active role in their health, share their health data with any healthcare organization, check for errors, and make informed decisions for their health.
2) Because HIPAA safeguards a patient’s healthcare information, healthcare organizations must implement safeguards to ensure that any health data that is created, stored, maintained, or transmitted anywhere else is kept safe from cybercriminals or hackers trying to obtain sensitive information. These safeguards include employee training, encryption measures, firewalls, physical security, etc. HIPAA ensures that healthcare organizations are required to safeguard data and if they fail to do so, they are liable.
3) The HIPAA Privacy Rule puts restrictions on the individuals who are able to view healthcare data, and who the healthcare data can be shared with without permission from the patient. Permission from the patient must be given for healthcare data to be shared with anyone outside of the healthcare provider(s) and those performing administration duties. Anyone handling sensitive data must always agree to keep it secure including mailing vendors, insurance companies, and other healthcare business services and providers. Under this rule, patients are also able to designate if they want caregivers or friends and family to be able to obtain health information on their behalf.
4) Even though HIPAA protects the privacy of data and security measures are required, unfortunately, data breaches may still occur. However, HIPAA requires that any breach of private information be reported by any healthcare provider or their associates. All data breaches must be reported within 60 days to allow the patient time to take action and protect their sensitive data and avoid fraud or identity theft.
From the transmission of healthcare data to the rights of a patient, HIPAA protects a patient’s privacy and information and ensures they are able to be involved in their healthcare. Legislation updates to the law have further improved the rights of patients all over the United States and further improved the healthcare system as a whole.