Protecting the Privacy of Your Medical Data

Protecting the Privacy of Your Medical Data

Why Do You Have to Be Concerned About Privacy?

Today, it is no wonder that people are more concerned about protecting their privacy. With the momentary accessibility of data on the internet and various breaches or controversies related to user data exposure, people have to educate themselves on the topics of privacy and data protection. We no longer trust big corporations to ensure the safety of our data but instead look for alternative ways of protecting it.

When it comes to medical data, the concern is significantly elevated. Health care providers who transmit health information have standards that they have to abide by, but not all of the health care providers fall under such obligations. As a HIPAA compliant company, we want to provide you with information as to whom you can trust with your data and what the HIPAA means to you.

What Is the HIPAA?

In general, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provides federal protection for personal health information that is held by covered entities. HIPAA gives patients rights with respect to their personal health-related information. However, the HIPAA privacy rule also permits the disclosure of personal health information that is needed for patient care and other essential purposes. As part of HIPAA, Administrative Simplification Rules were designed to protect patient confidentiality, while allowing for medically necessary information to be shared concerning patient’s data privacy.

Most healthcare providers, health organizations, and government health plans that use, store, maintain or transmit patient healthcare information are required to comply with the privacy regulations of the HIPAA law.

What Is the Purpose of the HIPAA?

With so much information changing hands between medical providers and health insurers and so many other parties in the healthcare services world, the HIPPA Act looked to simplify handling of documentation and sensitive patient information in the healthcare industry, while protecting the confidentiality of the patient’s healthcare information. It ensures that your data is only accessed in permitted cases and when done so, all of the security standards are maintained by both sides.

How Does HIPAA Protect My Personal Data?

The HIPAA is focused on simplifying the system of data transferring while maintaining high levels of security for patients. Title IV is a safeguard ensuring the protection of privacy for your medical information. However, HIPAA is not the only law that ensures the privacy of your data. Specific federal laws also apply when dealing with patient private information.

What are the 4 Rules of HIPAA for Healthcare Providers?

1. HIPAA Privacy Rule – Protecting the type of data that is communicated

2. HIPAA Security Rule – Protecting the databases and data for security

3. HIPAA Enforcement Rule – Indicates procedures for enforcement and procedures for hearings and penalties.

4. HIPAA Breach Notification Rule – Requires health care providers to notify individuals when there has been a breach of protected health information

What does PHI Stand for?

Protected health information (PHI), also referred to as personal health information, generally refers to demographic information, medical histories, test and laboratory results, mental health conditions, insurance information, and other data that a healthcare professional collects to identify an individual and determine appropriate care (source).

What is De-Identified Mean to Health Data?

There are no restrictions on de-identified health information, de-identified health information is information that can not be tied back to an individual as it has been stripped of all individualized information that could identify the individual and therefore has no identifying properties and provides no risk. Thus, it is your data without any trace of your personal information that can be used to trace this data back to you. It is used mostly for research and healthcare improvement purposes. Therefore, as in any research, health care providers, under the HIPAA, have to make sure that your personal information is not exposed to third-party research groups. However, even under the HIPAA, health care providers can de-identify your data and share information such as diagnosis or treatment effects with individual companies that specialize in medical research.

Are There Any Exceptions to the HIPAA?

HIPAA’s privacy exceptions give health care providers and others who are required to follow HIPAA an exception in some areas where they don’t have to follow the rules outlined by the act. Check out the exceptions to HIPAA that do not require patient authorization here.

What Companies or People are NOT Required to be HIPAA Compliant?

  • State agencies, like child protective services
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Direct to consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies
  • Schools
  • Mobile apps used for health and fitness purposes
  • Alternative medicine practitioners
  • Your employer
  • Life insurance companies

Is Your Data Safe?

HIPAA has been in place to protect healthcare data since 1996. Of course, many things have changed since then including internet and social media. Thus, the information has become more accessible. When the act was first put in place, all of the patients’ data was still being stored in paper format. However, there have been multiple revisions of the act to adapt to the ever-changing environment and keep your data secure. Therefore, as long as you make sure that a health care provider is complying with HIPAA standards, you can be confident that your data is treated with extreme caution as enforced by the law.