HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is a federal law enacted in 1996, and amended several times since then. Its purpose is protecting patient information on record with healthcare providers and related companies or services.

HIPAA requires that providers establish and enforce data policies and maintain a number of security protocols. HIPAA protects patient information and governs its use, whether it’s digital or on paper.

Risks of Healthcare Data

By 2013, 80 percent of healthcare facilities had switched to electronic systems. Your medical record will contain your Social Security number, name, address, insurance information, prescriptions, and more.

A criminal can use this information to steal your identity and ransack bank or credit accounts, buy drugs, or commit insurance fraud. This makes healthcare a favorite target of hackers, who could often copy patient records and sell them off online without getting caught. HIPAA imposes safeguards to prevent this kind of situation.

Patient Information

The Privacy Rule of 2003 added guidelines to define how patient records can be used and shared. Patients have the right to view or request copies of their medical information. This gives patients some control over their own information and insights into choosing between healthcare providers.

You must have a privacy policy in place to inform patients how their information will be used and what steps are taken to protect it. Medical records can’t be shared with third parties without the patient’s knowledge and consent, unless it’s a matter of public welfare.

For Providers

Healthcare providers must meet basic guidelines such as encryption, restricted access, and adequate passwords when storing or transmitting patient information. Your electronic systems must use established medical codes and patient identifiers.

Unique IDs help to avoid confusion and accidental sharing of unauthorized information. Providers, healthcare brokers, or insurers who violate HIPAA rules and patient privacy may face both civil suits and criminal prosecution. Healthcare partners are also required to report any data breaches.

Electronic Health Records

Compliance with HIPAA regulations and using and managing EHR systems are becoming an increasingly important part of healthcare. Healthcare administrators and those pursuing a career in this field must have sufficient knowledge and experience with managing digital medical records.

Fortunately, even full-time workers in healthcare can pursue a master’s at online schools that offer healthcare administration, with emphasis on strategy and innovation. This will help to open up your career options as technology and regulations evolve.

HIPAA is here to stay, and healthcare professionals must comply.