What Does the Healthcare Privacy Rule Entail?

| Updated on February 28, 2024

Doctor-patient confidentiality; isn’t it reassuring as you seek healthcare attention? Patients don’t want sensitive healthcare information made public. Privacy and security of your sensitive information can’t be emphasized enough. While essential, doctor-patient confidentiality isn’t the biggest measure in healthcare data privacy. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) Privacy Rule entails a lot more.

HIPAA is a complex legalization piece that demands the protection of patients’ private information across healthcare departments. Most importantly, strict penalties are here to enforce HIPAA compliance. This act is meant to ensure a higher level of protection for patients’ data. Unfortunately, data breaches are real in the healthcare sector as well. According to Netsec News, about 50,000 patients were affected by a business email compromise attack in Mon Data Health Breach. 

Additionally, 2021 had been a bad year for the healthcare sector due to major data breach occurrences. Even in December 2021, only 4 major data breaches affected nearly 2 million Americans with exposure to personal and confidential health information.

Fortunately, the healthcare sector can minimize the risk of data breaches by completing an all-inclusive HIPAA checklist. HIPAA checklist for compliance is a tool that every HIPAA-covered business associate and entity should follow for compliance efforts in the best possible way. 

When was the HIPAA Act Enacted?

HIPAA was enacted on 21st August 1996. Section 261-264 requires the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publicize Administrative Simplification provisions. The standards detail the privacy and security of PHI’s electronic exchange. Within the HHS is the Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The office handles the implementation and enforcement of the Privacy Rule.

What does the HIPAA Privacy Act Do?

Most healthcare and health plan service providers are covered under the rule of the HIPAA privacy act. HIPAA rules have set a national standard to protect every individual’s personal health information and medical records. 

HIPAA privacy act allows the protection of patients’ data in multiple ways. These usually include:

  1. Giving patients control over their personal and healthcare information. 
  2. Setting certain boundaries on the usage and release of patients’ health records. 
  3. HIPAA privacy act also establishes proper guidelines that healthcare providers and others working in the healthcare sector must consider to protect health information’s privacy. 
  4. HIPAA rules violators are accountable for strict penalties. These penalties include criminal and civil penalties, which will impose if someone violates patients’ privacy rights. 
  5. Moreover, HIPAA also strikes a balance whenever a patient supports disclosing their data responsibly, such as protecting the public’s health. 

For patients, the HIPAA privacy act is all about making informed choices when they seek healthcare and recompence for care based on how someone is using their personal and health information. It can help the patients to know how their health information is being used. HIPAA compliance usually limits the information release of the patient to a minimum. This rule allows the patients to obtain and examine their health records and then request if they want to make any corrections in the record. Moreover, the HIPAA privacy act also allows the patient to control the disclosure of his health information.  

Why Privacy Rule?

HIPAA Privacy Rule allows a smooth flow of information as needed to provide quality health care and protect public health. This is while assuring consumers’ security and privacy of their sensitive information. With its provisions, there is a balance as the parties follow set standards. Patients are assured of safety and privacy as they seek medical attention. The providers know what they need and must do to comply and ensure patients are protected. This ranges from data collection to disclosure and everything between. The rule is comprehensive and flexible. This accounts for the diverse healthcare landscape and the ever-evolving technology.

The Privacy Rule establishes how covered entities handle PHI (Protected Health Information). This includes medical and identifiable health information. All covered entities must comply, including healthcare practices, clearinghouses, and health plans. This is more so considering providers who handle healthcare transactions electronically. The Privacy Rule sets limits and conditions when handling PHI. This includes collecting, accessing, using, and disclosing the information.

The rule requires entities to put in place safeguards, ensuring privacy and privacy. If an entity violates the policies, they are held accountable. As per the situation, they can face civil or criminal penalties. There are many cases of employees fired for HIPAA violations. This shows how important compliance is for the involved parties. Apart from such incidences, the violations could attract significant financial penalties. This is not to mention a damaged reputation. As such, practices are advised to ensure their employees are trained and updated on the HIPAA policies.

The Privacy Rule grants patients rights over the PHI. You have the right to request a copy of your health record. Moreover, you can ask the entity to disclose the records to a third party. The patient also has the right to request an entity to make corrections to the records. With such control and access, patients are more engaged in the health care process. They can make more informed decisions as they seek medical attention. For instance, you’ll know what’s billed. This facilitates smooth transactions, speeding up the processes. It benefits patients, service providers, and insurance companies, among other involved parties.

The bottom line is that; Privacy rule helps you understand and control PHI’s use. It also governs how covered entities handle PHI. This ensures that such sensitive information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Also Read: Importance of Healthcare in Technology

Entities Covered Under HIPAA Privacy Act 

As we all know, healthcare is a broad sector that covers various organizations and individuals. However, we have enlisted the type of organizations or departments covered under the HIPAA privacy act. These include:

  • Healthcare providers 
  • Healthcare clearing houses 
  • Health plans 
  • Business associates

Entities covered under the HIPAA privacy act must rely on the best judgment and professional ethics to use and disclose patients’ personal information. The violence of the HIPAA privacy act can lead to criminal penalties and civil monetary. So, be careful about HIPAA compliance to stay safe from any unwanted act.

Miles Evans


Related Posts