Saturday, March 3, 2012

3 Things About the HIPAA Privacy Rule

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has ensured that the policies regarding health information exchange and accountability are maintained. This act was brought in to ensure compliance and regulate health care bodies. Healthcare clearing houses, health insurance companies, business associates of the above mentioned and employee group health plans are brought into compliance with this act. There are 3 main components to this act: transactions, privacy and security.

In this case, privacy of information is going to be discussed. We are all aware, that in the age of social media, accessible text and images about celebrities or well-known figures is not difficult to obtain. It becomes imperative, sometimes to ensure that the information does not reach the wrong hands. So, measures have been taken to see that all the software related aspect of health information remains safe and inaccessible except when a request is made by the individual concerned regarding his own PHI. Electronic Protected Health Information (EPHI), sometimes also Protected Health Information (PHI), is the main component of this exercise and is the medium through which health information is exchanged between the different health related franchises.

In the event of certain circumstances, the covered entities have the right to disclose information regarding their patients' illnesses and other medical concerns to them in order for the effective remedy to be given. In this case, public health organizations use this information to remain in control of the public health situation and monitor any untoward or unexpected happenings, like the swine flu scare, mad cow disease etc. This information is also vital for government records of birth, death and population control, areas that are the prerogative of the government for administrative purposes as well.

There are some checks and imbalances within our society that can only be monitored through effective and rigorous tracking. Some of these are:

• Instances of child or domestic abuse

• Cases of food adulteration in products available in the market or abuse of certain drugs which increase the demand for the drug, this is something that the FDA has to keep an account of. These are all instances of public health monitoring.

• Sometimes, through effective counter-action, a crisis is averted so that it is not a cause for concern. Similarly, with diseases that are highly contagious or pose the danger of becoming an epidemic or for which effective medicines have not been found; such cases must be nipped in the bud as quickly as possible. With the massive rise in work-related injuries and lifestyle diseases, awareness has to be spread. These are problems of public health that the government must be in the know of and disseminate information about.

Thus, while the privacy component in the HIPAA ensures that the individual retains control over his medical information without allowing illegitimate use without his consent, the larger picture of this debate is that the HIPAA ensures that the covered entities maintain control and regulation of the EPHI in order to be more effective where policy making is concerned and thus make it as foolproof as possible.


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