The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, more easily remembered as “HIPAA”, was created in 1996 to protect patients from the unauthorized sharing of their private health information. HIPAA prevents confidential health information from being shared without the patient’s knowledge and consent and defines the penalties for information going unprotected.
Healthcare workers are obligated to uphold HIPAA privacy laws when working with patients and their records with some stiff penalties for those involved when it is found that confidential health information was not properly protected. It’s helpful for everyone working in healthcare to complete a HIPAA training course to remain current with standards and expectations relating to the protection of private health information.
What Are The Obligations of Healthcare Workers Under HIPAA?
Inside HIPAA, there are rules those working in healthcare should be aware of. These rules guide daily practice when working with protected health information and can be learned about in greater detail through quality HIPAA training.
Since HIPAA includes requirements on the safe storage of health information as well as what rights a patient has to their records, when people think about HIPAA, privacy instantly comes to mind. The Privacy Rule within HIPAA is all about the disclosure of protected health information, or PHI, by the health organization itself or what we call “covered entities”.
A covered entity is simply anyone that works in parallel to the hospital to support the provided medical care. An example could be a healthcare provider that shares protected health information for the purpose of insurance claims or expenditure eligibility. A covered entity could also be an organization responsible for medical coverage or long-term care in the form of something like a healthcare plan.
If an organization like a hospital is working with covered entities, those entities are equally responsible for upholding the integrity of protected health information.
The Security Rule within HIPAA deals with information transmitted electronically, more specifically how that information is obtained, stored, and transmitted. Any health organization that deals with electronic protected health information or e-PHI is obligated to make sure that information is not accessed by any unauthorized person.
If you work with an electronic medical record, you can blame this rule for having to change your password every couple of months.
Breach Notification Rule
Organizations required to maintain HIPAA compliance are also required to follow the Breach Notification Rule. The Breach Notification Rule means that if an organization fails to properly protect the health information of their patient they need to notify the patients themselves, the secretary of breaches, and in some cases, the media.
HIPAA stipulates that a patient has the right to know when their information has not been properly protected.
Why is HIPAA Training Important?
From the patient’s perspective, the importance of protecting PHI is crystal clear. None of us would want our sensitive information out there in the hands of people not contributing to our care. As healthcare professionals who care for others, we need to do everything possible to keep that information safe.
People working in healthcare need to know how many opportunities there are in their daily routine for PHI to potentially become breached. Healthcare workers deal with private information regularly throughout the day, often with multiple patients. Every interaction with other care providers, every test, every procedure, and every bit of documentation in the medical record is considered protected information.
Across all healthcare roles, that information needs to be supported through safely obtaining the information, storing, and transmitting it when needed. In practice, this looks like:
- Not having a conversation about personal information in front of people not involved in the patient’s care
- Not sharing your password to access a medical record
- Following policy and procedure when sharing that information by way of something like a fax
Even when a HIPAA violation is committed accidentally, serious penalties can apply. An organization can be fined large amounts of money if found to have not protected information adequately. Worst of all, patients must be informed, which means they will know that their private information has fallen into the wrong hands. This can bring about a sense of violation that can’t be taken back impacting their trust in an organization.
As a member of the healthcare workforce, you need to know how to do your part in the protection of PHI. Taking a HIPAA Training course is a helpful place to get oriented. The HIPAA Training course offered by #1 Premiere Continuing Education covers topics like the essential rules within HIPAA, how to support basic compliance standards, and the enforcement of HIPAA standards.