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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, often called HIPAA, must be a familiar term if you belong to a health department.
This particular act aims towards various health practices to maintain safety and quality throughout the healthcare industry.
Although all the rules and regulations might be quite confusing, getting the basics right is a must for everyone associated with this industry.
So let’s dig in further on the basic details of HIPAA Compliance and its importance to healthcare security.
Established in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a set of standards implemented in healthcare businesses throughout the United States.
The law mainly deals with privacy and protecting patients’ sensitive data like medical history, personal details, test reports, etc.
Under this act, anybody working in the healthcare organization cannot use or disclose the patients’ data as mentioned above without the patient’s consent.
Also, here are some important abbreviations within the definition of HIPAA Compliance that you need to look at.
HHS - Department of Health and Human Services
PHI-Protected Health Information
OCR = Office for Civil Rights
HIPAA Compliance mainly aims to prevent any kind of misuse or illegal disclosure of protected health information (PHI).
As the name suggests, Protected Health Information (PHI) covers all the sensitive data about a patient within a healthcare organization. This data can include the following:
Personal details - Name, Address, Contact
Health-related data - Medical records, health insurance information, billing information
Miscellaneous data- Any kind of any conversations with providers/healthcare practitioner
For example, if someone says that Jamie Wilson is diagnosed with 1st-grade obesity, that’s PHI. This is because it contains personal details like Jamie Wilson’s name and health-related data on obesity. Therefore doctors or nurses can’t simply convey this single sentence to any outsider without the patient’s consent.
While there are numerous reasons why HIPAA compliance is essential for the healthcare system, here are some key objectives to bear in mind.
Patient’s trust and transparency: If a patient knows that their sensitive data is well protected, they will most likely trust the provider and disclose all the necessary details.
Yes, patients can hesitate about admitting their medical records because of various sensitive issues in society like - substance abuse, reproductive problems, and mental health issues.
Thus, HIPAA compliance maintains the integrity of patients’ data and helps them cooperate so that doctors can help in their best way.
Maintains the company’s reputation: A healthcare entity’s reputation plays a major role when a patient seeks medical help. For example, if a hospital has a reputation for frequent data leaks and lawsuits, no one would like to seek help from there. In addition, loss of patient trust or hours of contacting and compensating for data breaches can eventually stain that organization’s identity.
Thus, following the standards of HIPAA Compliance can maintain the brand’s image and goodwill towards the people.
Reduces fraudulent activity: As HIPAA compliance aims towards the confidentiality and protection of sensitive data, it provides full access to the patients to their data. As a result, the patients can easily manage and keep an eye on who is accessing the data and when. In this way, HIPAA enforcement significantly reduces the chances of any suspicious and fraudulent activities.
According to HIPAA compliance, even the subcontractors or any middlemen engaged in the healthcare facility must be compliant.
Saves you from violation charges: All healthcare businesses which store, handle, manage, or transfer patient health information to their servers must strictly adhere to the complete rules and regulations of HIPAA Compliance.
In case of any violation, your healthcare organization can be fined up to $1.5 million. However, following simple compliance policies is much easier and cost-effective than facing legal action.
In recent years, the PHI also covers all the electronic data related to the patient. As most data nowadays is stored digitally, services like HIPAA hosting have come into effect.
HIPAA hosting refers to cloud computing solutions that adhere to HIPAA compliance. Such web hosting solutions can include websites, applications, and VPN services designed according to HIPAA guidelines, ensuring protected health information. A web company is said to be compliant if:
HIPAA Compliance is a whole framework of educating, training, and implementing the rules and regulations within the organization.
To get started, one can contact The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which also offers Security Assessment tools.
Complying with HIPAA may sound exhausting, but it is surely bound to benefit both the patients and the organization.