What is the purpose of HIPAA? Originally established to redefine the healthcare industry, HIPAA laws oversee how Protected Health Information (PHI) is used and disclosed. It applies exclusively to healthcare providers and health insurance plans.
HIPAA laws are thorough, intricate, and- at times- difficult to understand. However, they are merely the metaphorical “floor”, or bare minimum, of regulatory guidelines to follow regarding a patient’s medical information.
The purpose of HIPAA laws is to establish a set of national standards regarding the use of health data. Additionally, these laws hold healthcare providers and insurance companies accountable for the ways in which they use PHI.
HIPAA regulations have been adapted to focus on patient rights in a digital world. As the amount of cyber attacks continues to increase, HIPAA laws help protect both providers and patients from data breaches.
What is HIPAA?
The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act, or HIPAA protect a patient’s identifiable health information. These federal laws laws apply to “Covered Entities (CE’s),” such as a physician, doctor’s office, or health insurer.
Businesses contracted with a CE may perform a service on their behalf and as such, come into contact with PHI. Also known as a “Business Associate” or “BA”, these entities are also required to comply with HIPAA regulations. A BA that comes into contact with PHI must sign a Business Associate Agreement, or “BAA ”.
There are three main rules outlined under HIPAA, and each rule serves a different purpose. However, they are ultimately in place to articulate a patient’s rights and to regulate how covered entities can use PHI.
What are the Three Rules of HIPAA?
HIPAA regulations operate primarily under three basic rules, known as The Privacy Rule, The Security Rule, and The Breach Notification Rule. These standards are laid out to secure and safeguard a patient’s valuable health information.
The Privacy Rule:
The Privacy Rule protects patients’ rights by governing how PHI can be used without patient authorization. Patient rights under The HIPAA Privacy Rule may include obtaining a copy, examining, and requesting corrections to their medical records.
The Security Rule:
The Security Rule was established as an industry standard for protecting a patient’s sensitive information. Under The HIPAA Security Rule, CE’s are required to implement certain safeguards to secure PHI. Examples may include HIPAA compliant email services, domain registration, and encrypting email data.
The Breach Notification Rule:
A data breach is an unfortunate reality for healthcare providers. A breach occurs when PHI is accessed, used, or disclosed in a manner that violates HIPAA regulations.
The Breach Notification Rule is in place to notify affected patients of the data breach. Additionally, it requires CE’s to take action in the event of a data breach. This can include security tactics such as strengthening passwords and data encryption.
What is PHI?
Maintaining the integrity of PHI is a crucial aspect of HIPAA compliance. PHI contains one, or a multitude of, identifiable factors regarding a patient’s health information that needs to be kept private.
A patient’s name, date of birth, social security number, phone number, home address, or driver’s license number are all applicable examples. If this information is not properly secured, a data breach can occur. Data breaches put medical practices in a world of turmoil. Furthermore, they also cause reputational, financial, and emotional damage to the affected patients.
Why are HIPAA Regulations Important?
A patient’s PHI is one of the most valuable pieces of information imported into electronic healthcare systems. Digital healthcare platforms not only optimize convenience for healthcare facilities, but also their patients. Research shows that 80% of individuals who have viewed their medical records online have found that information helpful.
Cyber criminals like hackers can use electronic medical records to commit Medicare fraud, steal a patient’s identity, and install ransomware. Cyberattacks can be damaging to your reputation and costly to your medical practice.
Computers get faster and smarter everyday. As their capabilities increase, so do the chances of falling victim to a cyber attack. In fact, since 2020, there has been a 45% surge in cyber attacks regarding medical records. HIPAA regulations are important because they oversee and promote practices to keep CE’s safe from data breaches.
For example, having a HIPAA compliant email service protects valuable patient information at rest and in transit. Prioritizing data security protects patients’ medical information and also establishes a secure reputation for healthcare providers.
The purpose of HIPAA is to give patient’s positive control over their Protected Health Information (PHI). One of the most effective ways to adhere to the standards that HIPAA requires is through a secure email service. Cloud based email platforms allow you to send and receive secure messages from you email address. Apart from laptop loss, improperly encrypted back-up data is one of the most common types of data breaches.
Don’t let your data fall victim to another data breach. If you are looking for the best HIPAA compliant email service, contact our office today!