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Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)

What is Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This federal act applies to every hospital, medical clinic or dental office that stores the confidential information of their patients and each of these institutions must comply with this act. The goal of this act is to keep patient records secure and confidential during when they are in storage. HIPAA also applies to the proper destruction of patient files when they no longer need to be stored.

HIPAA helps to provide security and privacy of personal health information, including but not limited to health insurance plans, electronic healthcare transactions and personal identifiers.

Who is subject to HIPAA Compliance?

HIPAA is a federal act, and virtually applies to every hospital, medical clinic or dental office that stores the sensitive information of their patients; each of these institutions must comply with this law. All health care providers and institutions, plus any business associates, are mandated to establish and follow strict processes that guarantee the confidentiality and security of protected health information (PHI) when it is transferred, received, handled, or shared. This includes all forms of PHI, such as documents, oral conversations, and electronic data. In addition, it’s important that only health information that’s absolutely required to perform business duties is used or shared.

What are my Rights Under HIPAA?

Generally speaking as a patient, you expect that your medical and other health information is kept private, and want to be informed on who has access to this information. The Privacy Rule, which is also a Federal law, provides you with specific rights over your health information and creates rules and limits on exactly who can review and receive your confidential health information.

The Privacy Rule requires HIPAA covered entities to supply individuals upon request, with access to their protected health information (PHI) in one or more “designated record sets” that is currently in the hands of a healthcare provider. This refers to the right to review or take a copy, of the particular record, or to have a copy of the PHI transmitted to a person of choice. As a patient, you have the right and ability to access your PHI for the duration it’s maintained at your particular health care institution. Individuals have a right to access this PHI for as long as the information is maintained by a covered entity. This remains the case regardless of the date the information was created, and whether or not the information is in paper or electronic format. This is a given right; the only downside to this law is that healthcare entities are able to charge for this service if they wish.

Who does HIPAA Protect?

HIPAA creates a national standard, and is in place to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information.  HIPAA compliance means that a medical service provider must protect any and all patient information in their custody.

Why is HIPAA Important?

HIPAA allows you to instruct who may represent you on your behalf should there be an emergency or accident that inhibits you from communicating on your own. This is crucial for your safety and can be one trusted individual or you may ask multiple people to speak for you in these circumstances. HIPAA was designed to protect the patient and their confidentiality. All healthcare institutions must have a compliance department so if you are concerned that there is a compliance issue or breach of data get in touch with this department immediately to look after your issue.

Where can I find more information about HIPAA?

To learn more, visit this link: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers

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