Online privacy is a huge concern not just here in the United States, but across the entire world. The digital landscape unfortunately comes with a lot of dangers, and when it comes to information about our health, we all want to know that it will be safe. As more doctors and health care providers switch to virtual platforms, this has become even more important than before.
So – what is HIPAA, anyway? It is the Heal Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. It was established back in 1996, and you can read about it here: https://www.cdc.gov/phlp/publications/topic/hipaa.html. Essentially, it dictates that requires organizations to protect the data from customers that is considered sensitive health information.
Any companies in the United States that deal in this line of work must comply with it, since it is federal law. That is why I am here today to explain how you can do this, as well as sharing some tips and tricks that I have picked up along the way.
Getting a Better Understanding of the Law Itself
As we get into this, let us first cover the Privacy Rule that is a part of it. What is contained in these rules? Well, to put it simply, it outlines what the so-called “covered entities” are in terms of who has to follow the guidelines. Additionally, it establishes that people in this country have a right to determine how their health care information is utilized by the organizations that they share it with. Clearly, it is very important legislature.
Who are those covered entities, then? There are a few. The first I will cover are healthcare providers. This is a bit of a no brainer that they must comply with HIPAA laws, but I do think it is important to mention them anyway. Any eligibility inquiries, claims, referrals, and other transactions must follow these rules.
Health plans also fall under this, of course. This does include any that are provided by the government such as Medicaid or Medicare. There are a few exceptions that you can read about on the CDC’s website if you are curious, but more than likely, if you are doing research on how to comply you will not fall under the exceptions. It is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to potential breaches of privacy or data protection.
How Compliance Works
Wondering what this looks like? It can be a bit difficult to navigate all of the different regulations. What can help is starting by understanding the purpose behind these laws. Why do they exist?
It is to protect patients. No one wants their data collected and sold to be used against them in insurance claims or something like that. However, a part of these restrictions is that they are still intended to allow health care providers to use the data that they collect to improve their quality of provided service and care.
You can find out some more information about the purposes behind HIPAA on this page, if you are curious about it. I do think that studying it before we work on how our business will comply is probably a good call. It can help us to avoid erroneous practices in our goal for compliance.
The main tenants are pretty simple. Any important documentation that you provide to patients or that they fill out for you must be kept secure and confidential. Patients also must be able to access their documents readily and without difficulty. I find that the latter point is often one of contention, so it might be something to keep an eye on in your organization.
Some additional notes are that organizations should be watching out for any potential threats to the safety of the data that they are storing. For most of us, gone are the day of physical archives. More often than not, it is all stored on computers and in databases now. That means that hackers are always a possibility, so prevention tactics should be focused on.
A question that I hear a lot regarding this topic is how can we make sure that we are following all of the rules established in this law? There are plenty of options to consider. Of course, you can research the actual wording yourself and do your best to follow it to a T. Sometimes, things slip through the cracks, though.
There are other companies that can help you to assess whether you are in compliance with the regulations or not. They are all over the internet, of course, so it should not be too difficult to locate them. If you want another pair of eyes to look over the procedures for your organization, you could consider doing this. There are trained professionals who can do just that.