Monday, February 27, 2012

HIPAA and Patient Privacy Rights: 5 Things You Should Know

Private medical information of a patient is now being handled in a totally different way owing to the HIPAA (Health Information Portability and Accountability Act) privacy rules. These HIPAA privacy rules are stringent principles that are to be followed by all healthcare organizations. If they are not followed it may result in severe penalties including fines and even imprisonment.
The HIPAA makes sure that the patients have ultimate authority over their own medical data. It is their right to access their records at any time and hospitals cannot deny them this right. In case a patient feels that any information included in his medical records is incorrect or missing, he can request a change or alteration.
The patient privacy rules as laid down by HIPAA are very important. Five important things you should know are explained below.
• If there is a need to use a patient's medical data for reasons other than his treatment, he has the sole right to decide who can or cannot have access to his medical records. If the patient's confidential information is used without prior permission it is a breach of the federal act.
• If the patient's private medical records are revealed to any person or entity it is counted as a violation to the civil and criminal law. There will definitely be penalties for such an act which may vary as per the violation.
• The HIPAA privacy rules along with protecting patient information also provide certain rights to the covered entities. The employees of the covered entity can choose to reveal the patient's medical records to insurance companies, government agencies and for public importance without prior permission from the patient.
• Not all employees are given access to the patient records. The healthcare organization has to identify what employees need complete access to the medical records, like doctors, and what employees need restricted access. Therefore, the specific function of the employee should determine if he has access to confidential patient information or not.
• To protect unnecessary employees accessing patient files, safeguards need to be put in place. The HIPAA privacy rules should be made compulsory and only authorized persons should be allowed to access sensitive patient information.
A log is to be maintained recording the names of employees who access the medical data and their reason for doing so. If it is noted that a patient's information has been accesses numerous times for unknown reasons, a thorough check should be done as this is a violation of the HIPAA rules.
Special training must be given to all the employees of healthcare organizations about strictly following the HIPAA privacy guidelines. They should be taught the importance of these guidelines. This will prevent unnecessary penalties and improper access of medical data. In case of any breach a specific time period is provided to the healthcare organization to correct it. If the organization requires some more time to correct the breach they can make a request and an extension may be given to them. If the covered organizations report numerous violations and failure to correct them they may even lose their license.

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