To improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) provides provisions that required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to adopt standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule sets standards regarding the safeguard of protected health information and outlines appropriate use and disclosure of this information. A major goal of this Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.
The HIPAA Security Rule sets standards for keeping protected health information in electronic form secure. Safeguards must be in place to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information. The distinction between these Rules is how the information is maintained and transmitted.
Under HIPAA, protected health information (PHI) is defined as any individually identifiable health information that is maintained or transmitted in any form whether electronic, paper, or verbal. This includes any information, including demographic information, that relates to the individual’s past, present, or future physical or mental health or condition as well as the provision of care and payment for that care; and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual. HIPAA instructs how privacy and security protections should be used to make sure PHI remains confidential.
Why is HIPAA Important?
HIPAA impacts us all and helps keep our protected health information private and secure. HIPAA ensures that safeguards are put in place to protect sensitive and personal information. Maintaining confidentiality is crucial to creating trust between health care workers and those in their care. When steps are not followed to ensure the privacy and security of protected health information, the confidentiality of this information can be breached. There can be costly consequences for not only a company but individuals who abuse PHI; this can include hefty fines and/or jail time. HIPAA can be confusing so it is imperative that health care workers understand HIPAA and are able to explain why HIPAA is important to others.
At Wesley Enhanced Living, it is the responsibility of everyone to respect and safeguard the privacy and security of our residents’ protected health information. We provide ongoing, mandatory HIPAA training for our employees to make sure they understand their role in ensuring compliance with HIPAA as well as being able to educate others on their rights under HIPAA.
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