HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was legislated to protect the privacy and security of patient medical data in the United States of America.
It applies across all fifty states with no exceptions and any person or organization who fails to comply with its terms can incur serious consequences that range from huge fines to even jail time, depending on the nature, severity and consequences of the breach of HIPAA protocols.
Failing to comply with HIPAA rules and regulations can result in severe repercussions.
A brief look through the various aspects of HIPAA compliance will help in explaining the regulations and how they can impact a business in various ways.
Before we look at the businesses and medical practitioners who must abide by the HIPAA regulations for PHI, let us understand what exactly constitutes PHI.
What is classified as PHI?
PHI, or protected health information, refers to all medical records and medical insurance records of a patient, the associated bills and communication documents.
These may include, but are not limited to:
- Physical examination and medical test results (blood tests, plasma tests, swab tests, etc.)
- All medical scan reports (MRI, CT, etc.)
- Medical bills charged by doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, etc.
- All communication documents between the patient and the medical personnel, establishment and/or insurance provider (emails, messages, phone calls, notes, etc.)
Applicable institutions and individuals who are at risk of HIPAA noncompliance
All institutions, companies, organizations and individuals who are directly or indirectly linked with handling PHI must stay compliant with the various rules and regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Examples include:
- Doctors, nurses and other workers at the clinic who are directly or indirectly linked with handling the private information
- All specialized medical staff in charge of HIPAA protected PHI
- Hospitals and nursing homes
- All types of health maintenance organizations (HMO)
- Medical scribes and/or the employing medical transcription company, as applicable
- All cloud-based data storage services used for storing PHI
- All companies that use the PHI for generating analytical reports
How to ensure HIPAA Compliance: Protecting your professional reputation
A very common breach which both medical professionals and medical establishments are often found to be guilty of is the usage of cloud-based storage services that are not HIPAA compliant.
Central Data Storage provides one of the best HIPAA compliant data storage, sharing, backup, and recovery services in this industry, so they come highly recommended. Their services cover medical practitioners, clinics and even large hospitals with appropriately compliant plans.
Given that it takes a single breach to ruin a professional’s reputation or tarnish the name of a business permanently, ensuring that your data storage and sharing services are compliant with the applicable rules and regulations of the Act is crucial for businesses to ensure survival of any data disaster.
It should be clear by now that HIPAA compliance is important for all businesses and individuals who are trusted with protected health information (PHI), and there are reasons to be compliant that go further than non-compliance penalties.
HIPAA regulations are complex, but the most confusing aspect of the Act is how it keeps changing to accommodate new factors, as and when they arise.