The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a landmark piece of data protection legislation in the USA. What is it that makes HIPAA so significant? What reform did HIPAA bring in and what are the benefits to the healthcare sector and patients?
HIPAA legislation was first introduced in 1996, chiefly to address one particular problem: Insurance coverage for people that are between jobs. Without HIPAA in place, workers faced a loss of insurance provision when they were between jobs.
A secondary aim of HIPAA was to stop health care fraud and ensure that all ‘protected health information’ was properly secured and to limit access to health data to authorized people.
Why is HIPAA Significant for Healthcare Groups?
HIPAA brought in a number of important benefits for the healthcare sector to assist with the changeover from paper records to electronic copies of health information. HIPAA has assisted in streamlining administrative healthcare roles, enhance efficiency in the healthcare sector, and ensure protected health information is shared safely.
The standards for saving health data and electronic transactions means that everyone is using an inform procedure. Since all HIPAA-covered bodies must use the same rule sets and nationally recognized identifiers, this assists greatly enormously with the transfer of electronic health information between healthcare suppliers, health plans and other bodies.
Why is HIPAA Significant for Patients?
One of the greatest beneficiary groups of HIPAA is patients. HIPAA is significant as it ensures healthcare providers, health plans, health care clearinghouses and business associates of HIPAA-covered bodies must put in place multiple security measures to protect sensitive personal and health data.
While no healthcare group wishes to expose sensitive data or have health information stolen, without HIPAA there would be no obligation for healthcare groups to protect data – and no penalties if they did not do so.
HIPAA put in place rules that require healthcare organizations to control who can view health data, restricting who can view health information and who that information can be distributed to. HIPAA makes it easier to ensure that any data disclosed to healthcare providers and health plans, or information that is produced by them, transmitted, or stored by them, is subject to serious security controls. Patients are also allocated control over who their information is shared with and who it is sent to.
HIPAA is significant for patients who wish to take a more active role in their healthcare and wish to view copies of their health information. Even with great care, healthcare groups can make mistakes when saving health information. If patients can obtain copies, they can review for errors and ensure these are corrected.
Being able to see copies of health information also assists patients when they seek treatment from new healthcare groups – information can be sent on, tests do not need to be re-conducted, and new health care providers have the entire health records of a patient to inform their decisions. Before the Introduction of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, there were no requirements for healthcare groups to make copies of patients’ health information available.