“HIPAA” is an acronym referring to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a law that sets standards for how healthcare providers, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and insurance companies can use and share people’s private health information.
What Are The HIPAA Compliance Rules?
The HIPAA Compliance Rules protect individuals’ protected health information (PHI). The rules generally limits how HIPAA-covered entities may use and disclose an individual’s personal health information. It also requires covered entities to implement security measures to protect PHI.
Who needs to follow HIPAA Compliance Rules?
Healthcare providers, health insurance plans, and government health programs (e.g. Medicaid, Medicare, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) are required to follow rules set by HIPAA related to protecting the privacy of health information.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to health plans, health care providers, and health care clearinghouses that engage in certain transactions (e.g., health care claims, healthcare eligibility, and healthcare payment) electronically.
HIPAA also applies to cosmetic surgery, marriage counselors, therapists, and other professionals that see patients or provide services. The rule governs how personal health information is used and shared by these organizations. It sets out the rules for individuals’ rights regarding their personal data.
The exceptions to the HIPAA Privacy Rule include public health, treatment, and payment-related exceptions. Public health exceptions override privacy restrictions, allowing the disclosure of patient data in certain circumstances, such as an outbreak of a contagious disease. Treatment exceptions allow the disclosure of patient data for medical treatment and care at no charge. Payment exceptions allow the disclosure of health plan member information for purposes of payment and eligibility verification. The Privacy Rule also allows for third-party access to certain information that does not fall under an exception (such as credit reports).
How Does HIPAA Protect Your Personal Health Information?
The HIPAA compliance rules generally restricts the ways in which healthcare providers, health plans, and other healthcare entities can use and disclose the personal health information (PHI) of individuals who are their patients or clients. The rule requires covered entities to obtain an individual’s written authorization before using or disclosing that individual’s PHI. There are a few exceptions, including for treatment, payment, and certain other purposes.
What Is a HIPAA Managed IT Services Provider?
A HIPAA managed services provider (MSP) is a specialized IT firm, like VTC Tech, that offers HIPAA compliance IT services to healthcare organizations. Unlike general IT services, HIPAA compliance services involves the managed services providers reviewing your IT process regarding personal health information and ensuring you area in compliance with all HIPAA privacy rules. This means the MSP has extensive experience with managing a company’s IT infrastructure and understanding the compliance requirements with privacy regulations.
HIPAA-managed services often handle all aspects of IT management for healthcare companies, including implementation of new systems and technologies, repair and maintenance of existing systems, and security. A managed services provider can be an excellent option for healthcare organizations that want to stay compliant with HIPAA standards but lack the in-house expertise or resources to do so effectively.
Safeguards for Electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI)
HIPAA requirements for safeguarding electronic PHI are the same as those for paper health records. At a minimum, organizations must implement policies and procedures that are designed to safeguard access to and the integrity and confidentiality of all electronic PHI.
HPAA requires a variety of things from your network, database, and access to the data. For example, for input or output to be successful, the network must be able to handle the data volume and have enough bandwidth to make sure that it doesn’t slow down. The database must have enough space to hold all of the information that needs to be stored. And finally, you need access to the data so that you can get it in and out of your system as needed. So this is pretty much just a list of things that you need in order to make sure your project goes smoothly.
Specifically, covered entities must use reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical, and physical safeguards to prevent the improper use and disclosure of PHI.
With respect to the transmission of ePHI, covered entities must take reasonable precautions to protect ePHI that is transmitted over an electronic network. This includes the use of strong encryption. Additionally, the Privacy Rule requires covered entities to ensure that any contractors or other third parties that have access to ePHI use reasonable and appropriate safeguards to protect the information.
The Privacy Rule generally prohibits the sale or exchange of PHI for marketing purposes. It also requires covered entities to provide an individual with a notice about their privacy practices, including how the covered entity may use or disclose the individual’s PHI.
Limiting Use and Disclosure of Protected Health Information
Covered entities must have a valid reason to use or disclose an individual’s protected health information (PHI). Generally, covered entities must have a patient’s written authorization to use or disclose the individual’s PHI.
There are a few exceptions to the written authorization requirement, including for public health, treatment, and certain other reasons. The Privacy Rule generally restricts covered entities’ ability to disclose PHI to others. However, the rules generally permit health care providers to disclose PHI to health plans with which they contract to provide or receive payment for healthcare services. Generally, a covered entity may not use or disclose an individual’s PHI for marketing purposes.
VTC Tech can help you become HIPAA compliant
These HIPAA rules applicable to organizations that handle Personal Health Information, including state and local government agencies. Given the broad applicability of HIPAA, healthcare professionals should be vigilant about protecting any health-related information that they may have access to in the course of their job.
VTC Tech can help your organization become HIPAA compliant by reviewing your existing IT software stack and technology processes to ensure you are following the HIPAA rules and provide any HIPAA IT solutions you may need.