What Is Healthcare Privacy in the US?

What do you know about healthcare privacy? Healthcare privacy involves both the conversational discretion of health care providers and the confidentiality and security of medical records. Here you will learn all about healthcare privacy legislation in the USA.

HIPAA in the US
Healthcare Privacy

What Is Healthcare Privacy Legislation in the USA?

While seeking medical attention, how often do you think about healthcare privacy? Driven by the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) enacted in 1996, healthcare privacy details how specific patients’ health information is handled. Organizations including healthcare providers, clearinghouses, and healthcare plans must follow the regulations. Privacy rule covers all forms of protected health information (PHI). This includes oral conversations, written materials, and electronic documents.

Following HIPAA policies and HIPAA training, the privacy rules establish what is deemed PHI and how it is handled. This includes limits and conditions, such as access, uses, and disclosures, with or without a patient’s authorization. PHI includes data that healthcare practices collect to identify and determine the appropriate medical attention needed. This includes details such as past, present, or future;

  • Medical history
  • Mental health information
  • Demographic data
  • Lab/test results
  • Insurance information, to mention a few

HIPAA policy details how the information is;

  • Collected
  • Transmitted
  • Maintained and stored by the covered organizations

Covered entities are required to;

  • Disclose the data collection – there shouldn’t be records whose existence is secret.
  • Safeguard information and ensure it is not used or disclosed improperly
  • Reasonably limit use and disclosure to the minimum possible levels required for the intended purpose
  • Limit users who can access and view information

As a patient, healthcare privacy policies provide you rights including;

  • Request a copy of health records
  • Request for corrections to amend your information
  • Get notice of how your health information could be shared or used
  • Get a report when information is shared for a given reason, detailing why
  • Provide permission for information to be shared for purposes such as marketing
  • Require that your information is restricted, including its use and disclosure
  • File a complaint if you believe your information isn’t protected
HIPAA Security Alert
Security alert photo

The privacy policies also detail who can access and look at your information. This is set to ensure that the provision of health care isn’t affected. The users who can access, use, and share the information include doctors and nurses to facilitate care coordination. The billing department also accesses the information to determine how much you owe the facility, ensuring they are paid and keep running their practice. Your relatives/friends involved in your health care can also access the information unless you object. For example, reports such as to authorities like the police, if it includes gunshot wounds, also allow the information to be disclosed.

The policies’ bottom line is to ensure that sensitive information is protected without slowing health data flow. As such, your information can’t be disclosed to your employer unless you direct the entity. Moreover, it can’t be sold for advertising purposes, such as to marketers. At its core, it can be summarized by the four FIPPs (Fair Information Practices Principles). These are notice, choice, access, and security. Apart from PHI, the entities must also protect patients’ PII (Personal Identifiable Information). PII includes details such as your;

  • Social security number
  • Date/place of birth
  • Name
  • Address/contact details
  • Biometric records like fingerprint/voice signatures, among others

Seeking medical attention shouldn’t expose you to concerns such as identity theft. With healthcare privacy policies, you can rest assured that your sensitive information is in safe hands. Moreover, such data won’t fall into the wrong hands which can cause concerns like losing your job.

HIPAA Training
Healthcare provider in USA

Knowing who will be following the US healthcare privacy rules brings further peace of mind. Some entities that must follow these rules include:

  • Health plan providing companies, including health insurance companies, government programs paying for health care, HMOs, and company health plans
  • Healthcare providers usually conduct electronic business in the health privacy field. These include companies electrically buying health insurance for you, clinics, hospitals, doctors, psychologists, nursing homes, dentists, chiropractors, and pharmacies.
  • Any entity that is processing the nonstandard health information about you. That entity will receive this information from other entities. So, these healthcare clearinghouses have to necessarily follow the rules.

As mentioned earlier, there are limitations on who can look at your health information to maintain healthcare privacy. However, some cases need sharing patient information for different reasons, including:

  • For a better treatment of the patient
  • To coordinate better the care of the patient
  • To pay any healthcare entity or individual their fees
  • To keep doctors and nurses aware of the situation for your safety
  • To protect public health by all means(for reporting issues)
  • For making police reports

Providers can share the healthcare information of any patient with their family members, friends, relatives, or anyone else the patient identifies with involvement in their healthcare. However, the patient can object to that, but the health care information can be shared unless there is any objection.

Additionally, the information of any patient can only be shared or used when the patient provides written permission under the law.

For better healthcare privacy, healthcare providers can decide if they want to offer the patient a choice to get their information electronically or not. So, they offer the “Opt-In or Opt-Out Policy.”

According to this policy, there are no specific steps or requirements for getting the patient’s choice. They want to participate in the electronic health information exchange if they want to. At the same time, providers must inform the patients of these latest technology options. If the patients trust this system regarding their healthcare privacy, they can opt to be a part of the system.

The choice of any patient purely depends on their consent, and patients are always encouraged to make meaningful choices instead of just agreeing.

Healthcare privacy in the US has some state privacy and federal privacy laws. These make it necessary for the providers to have written consent from the patient whenever they share their health care information with any individual or organization. It is even necessary to get content in written form if the information is intended to be used for treatment purposes.

Different patients have some sensitive health situations with very sensitive medical information. Usually, patients like to keep such information private, and these state privacy and federal privacy laws help maintain the best healthcare privacy.

HIPAA policies bring very effective rules for better healthcare privacy. It also overrides some privacy laws that are not that effective. However, it does not affect any other better rules than it is. So, this legal framework brings better healthcare privacy than ever for every patient in the US.

The Scientific World

The Scientific World is a Scientific and Technical Information Network that provides readers with informative & educational blogs and articles. Site Admin: Mahtab Alam Quddusi - Blogger, writer and digital publisher.

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