Protecting Your Health Information

What you need to know about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

Identity theft. Credit card fraud. Computer viruses. Concern for the privacy and security of personal information has never been greater. Our concern for the safety and security of your personal health care information has never been taken more seriously.

While we have always gone to great lengths to ensure the privacy of your personal health information, we will soon be getting additional help from the Federal Government in the form of new regulations. These regulations will help standardize privacy and security requirements across the country and across all different types of health care organizations.

New Regulations Passed

The regulations are part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, for short. HIPAA does three primary things:

  1. It helps standardize and simplify the way health care organizations exchange electronic health care data.
  2. It provides consumers with additional protections for getting and maintaining health insurance coverage; although, it does not guarantee coverage.
  3. It creates new security rules to ensure the safety and privacy of individual health information and medical records.
HIPAA Ensures the Privacy and Security of Individual Health Information

Currently, individual state laws govern use and disclosure of this information, creating many inconsistencies and gaps in the way your health information is protected.  HIPAA sets minimum security and privacy standards for health care organizations to follow. If a state has more stringent privacy and security laws, then those would be followed instead. In addition, HIPAA sets heavy penalties for violations of these standards and the misuse of personal health information.

Defining Individual Health Information

Every time you go to see a doctor, are admitted to a hospital, fill a prescription or send a claim to an insurance company, a record is made of your confidential health information. This type of information is referred to as individually identifiable health information and is the type of information regulated by HIPAA. It can be in any format—electronic, paper or oral.

Health care organizations that collect and manage this type of information and are therefore covered by these regulations including physicians, physical therapists, mental health professionals, dentists, chiropractors, optometrists, podiatrists and others; hospitals; health plans; employers; health care clearinghouses such as claims processors; and other health care organizations who conduct administrative and financial transactions.

Added Control Over Health Information

Under HIPAA, you have new rights to understand and control how your health information is used:

  • Right to education? Health care providers and health plans are required to provide you with a clear written explanation of how they intend to use and disclose your information.
  • Right to access medical records?  You have the right to see and get copies of your medical records, request changes and receive a history of non-routine disclosures of your personal health information.
  • Right to consent?Health care providers are required to obtain prior consent before sharing personal health information for purposes other than treatment, payment and health care operations.
  • Right to recourse?You have the right to file a formal complaint if you believe that violations of the regulations were made.
In general, HIPAA tries to find a balance between protecting your privacy and allowing the appropriate flow of information between health care providers that is necessary for you to access care and receive quality health care services.
Want to learn more?
For a copy of our practice privacy protections, please as the receptionist at the front desk.
The following web sites ay also contain helpful information on HIPAA:
American Medical Association
American Dental Association
American Chiropractic Association
American Optometric Association
American Podiatric Association
American Academy of Opthamalogy