Since 1996, dental practices, doctors offices, and other medical facilities have followed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) in order to maintain the privacy and security of patient information. You probably recognize the terminology as the paperwork you commonly have to fill out and sign every time you see a new provider or go to the hospital. While we all sign and say we understand what this means, do we really “get” why HIPAA compliance is so important?
In general, the HIPAA form you have just filled out states that you understand the office or institution you are visiting adheres to HIPAA guidelines including: technical, physical, and administrative safeguards.This includes safeguarding the office server, electronic storage, transmission of files, and even protection of the desktop computers in reception rooms. Your privacy is protected at every stop along the way. In addition, this HIPAA form we all sign allows for communication between other medical professionals in regard to your health. For example, if two medical practitioners would like to discuss your case, they need prior permission in order to maintain HIPAA compliance.
- The Right to a Designated Helper – HIPAA is essential to protecting patient privacy, but it also allows for designees to be named in case a patient needs help filling out insurance forms or answering specific medical information. Patients who are injured, gravely ill, or having cognitive difficulties may need assistance from a loved one or family member. The right to designate who can speak for you is a critical part of HIPAA.
- The Right to a Copy of Medical Records – It is your right under HIPAA law to have a copy of your medical records. While you may have to pay a fee or wait for delivery, you have the right to a copy of your records in part or full. You also can share those records in part or full with other medical professionals.
HIPAA compliance is also critical and helpful to medical practices. According to HIPAA Journal, “HIPAA has helped to streamline administrative healthcare functions, improve efficiency in the healthcare industry, and ensure protected health information is shared securely.” HIPAA introduced a number of important benefits for the healthcare industry to help with the transition from paper records to electronic copies of health information. This includes using the same code sets and nationally recognized identifiers, which helps immensely with transferring electronic health information between healthcare providers, health plans, and other entities.
As IT specialists in HIPAA compliance, Spectra Networks understands the importance of our part of the compliance puzzle. If you have question about compliance at your medical facility, call Spectra Networks for more information at 978.219.9752, or visit our website.