Five Things You Need To Know About HIPAA

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Five Things You Need to Know About HIPAA

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - better known as HIPAA - went into effect in 1996. HIPAA does a number of things including helping workers keep medical data entry coverage whenever they lose or change a job. One of the most important aspects of HIPAA, however, deals with it has an impact on everyone.

HIPAA - for the first time - created a set of privacy rules which dictate how, what, where, when and with whom any personal health information can be shared. Essentially, HIPAA established a set of guidelines to minimize the chance that your personal medical information will be disclosed to someone who shouldn't see it.

Recent years have seen tremendous developments in medicine such as the ability for doctors to email x-rays to specialists for a second opinion in mere seconds. With those advances, however, personal medical information has become more at risk of disclosure. HIPAA established federal protections for protected health information (what's known as 'PHI')... whether it's a physical paper record in a doctor's office or an electronic file at an HMO.

Here are 5 important things to know about HIPAA and privacy:
1. HIPAA protects your personal information. Personally identifiable health information, such as a person's name, important dates (their birth date, admission or discharge date), phone number, social security number, photographs, and even geographic identifiers such as city, zip code or state are protected.

2. HIPAA gives patients more control over their personal information. HIPAA grants patients some control over the use of their health information, and with whom it can be shared. HIPAA gives patients personal rights, including: required privacy notices that explain how protected information will be used and shared, the ability to request that protected information be subject to restricted rules of disclosure, and the right to inspect, copy or amend one's medical records.

3. HIPAA doesn't impact the quality of medical care. HIPAA was first implemented many years ago, and most people haven't even really noticed it. Many patients remember having signed privacy notices at the doctor's office, but aside from that the changes since HIPAA's privacy rule went into effect have been mostly behind the scenes and have nothing to do with the delivery or quality of medical care.

4. Many organizations are required to follow the HIPAA privacy rules. Beyond a patient's primary care physician is a wide array of companies and organizations that are required to adhere to HIPAA's regulations, and they are referred to as 'covered entities.' They include: most doctors, dentists and chiropractors, Medicare and Medicaid health insurance companies and HMOs, Health Care Clearinghouses, clinics, hospitals, senior living facilities, psychologists, and pharmacies.

5. Many organizations are exceptions to the HIPAA regulations. Many people are unaware that there are organizations that might have access to personal health information who are not obligated to adhere to HIPAA. These include: employers, life insurance and workers compensation insurers, state offices, municipal offices and school districts, including law enforcement agencies. While most employers adhere to HIPAA's guidelines, it is critical to understand there are exceptions.

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