HIPAA Law and Patient Rights: Understanding and Complying with the Regulations

The criteria for protecting sensitive patient data are set by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA Law).

To achieve HIPAA Compliance, organizations that deal with protected health information (PHI) must put in place and adhere to physical, network, and process security measures.

HIPAA compliance is required of all covered entities (those who provide healthcare treatment, payment, and operations) and business associates (those who have access to patient information and assist with those activities).

Subcontractors and any other associated business partners must likewise comply, as must other companies.

The HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security Rules

The HIPAA Privacy Rule, also known as the Standards for Protection of Personally Identified Health Information, or SPIHI, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), defines nationwide standards for the protection of specific health information.

The Security Rule also creates a set of federal security requirements for safeguarding particular health information that is stored or moved electronically.

By addressing the technical and non-technical measures that covered businesses must implement to secure persons’ electronic PHI, the Security Rule operationalizes the Privacy Rule’s protections (e-PHI).

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under HHS is in charge of enforcing the Privacy and Security Rules through civil monetary fines and voluntary compliance programs.

The Need for HIPAA Compliance

HHS notes that HIPAA compliance is more crucial than ever as healthcare providers and other organizations that deal with PHI transition to computerized operations, including computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems, electronic health records (EHR), and radiology, pharmacy, and laboratory systems.

In a similar vein, health insurance offers access to applications for care management and self-service. All of these technological techniques boost productivity and mobility, but they also significantly raise security threats for healthcare data.

The Security Rule enables covered entities to embrace innovative technology to enhance the effectiveness and quality of patient care while still safeguarding the privacy of individuals’ health information.

By design, the Security Rule is adaptable enough to let a covered business use policies, practices, and technology that are appropriate for its size, organizational structure, and e-PHI security threats.